Friday, December 28, 2007

Robinson on Creativity

Over at TED Talks there's a very entertaining twenty minute video on the theme of creativity in the schools by Ken Robinson, author of Out of Our Minds. Robinson isn't saying anything radically different than Daniel Pink or any number of other commentators, but he's funny and he's very persuasive.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Season's Greetings

One of the collateral benefits of reviewing for Kliatt (see previous post) was that when I went to choose books, there were often a number of books of poetry on the shelves, mostly from writers I had never heard of. So each time I went, I would take four or five books and read through them, and in this way I began to educate myself about the current state of poetry in America. I discovered, for example, that the University of Pittsburgh published a series of small, elegantly formatted works under the imprint of The Pitt Poetry Series, and over the years I was reviewing I discovered and writers who have continued to give me pleasure throughout the years, including David Huddle, Peter Meinke, Ted Kooser, Larry Levis, Carol Muske, Sharon Olds, Alicia Ostriker, and Richard Shelton.

Here, in honor of the season, is a poem by Leonard Nathan, from his Pitt Poetry book Carrying On: New and Selected Poems. The poem consists of three sentences, which is part of its humor. I often read it with my students during the week before the holidays; it's a thoughtful and thought-provoking meditation on, well, desire. And responsibilty. And the meaning of Christmas. And li' dat. It's worth reading through slowly, out loud. Enjoy.


Waiting for the signal to change
in her favor, she saw him again
between sweeps of the windshield wiper,
the same man on the same corner
last Christmas, remembered now
because he was so wrong for seeing
this time of year in this part of town
where furs and jewels stared back
at one another in shop windows
that he passed unseeing and unseen
in a peacoat blotched and misshapen by age
and rain, himself blotched and misshapen
under a black stocking cap,
in one hand a brown paper parcel
tied with string, and now suddenly,
she was anxious—no, fearful,
because if life, her life anyway,
meant something (and she wasn't sure
it did), meetings as odd as this
might have some purpose, a sort
of repetition to make a point
she knew she wasn't getting yet
and didn't want to because now
she wasn't just fearful, but guilty as well,
and felt the petty cash in her purse
turn to ashes, the gifts piled
in the back seat. become a reason
to look away ashamed, and then
it came to her—a vision—to her
who always saw in things mere things:
There was a box wrapped prettily
in shiny red foil, and in it,
she knew, was the future, its top torn open
to reveal a little room
with a cot, one rickety chair,
an old card table, on it
a dish and cup, both plastic,
and three black wire coat hangers
hung in a closet otherwise empty,
and the smudged window stared blindly out
on smoky brick—the right place
to meditate on soup kitchens
or on the intensive care unit,
but it was the honking behind that woke her
to this world where the man, whatever
he meant, had crossed before her, his eyes
ahead, his heavy face neutral
as worn stone that asked nothing
on its way into the darkening air,
and she saw she had the green light
to move, still shaken, to where
she must to get on home to the tree
the children had put up for her,
the grandchildren were now trimming,
and eased into quieter streets,
feeling boxed inside steel
and black traffic, driven below
by a power she never understood,
and feeling—well, sort of—followed,
and, glancing in the rear-view mirror,
smiled at her little panic, but drove
faster, recalling that this was the time
for exchanging gifts and she had given
that man (somewhere behind her) her guilt
(as if he needed that) so now
it was his turn, and she drove faster,
wondering with a cold thrill just what
he'd picked for her, and slowed down
when she saw ahead through rainy dark
another vision (her lucky day!):
Under the tree, almost buried
in glittering golds and greens and reds,
a brown paper parcel tied with string,
with her name on it, to be opened
the morning of Jesus' nativity,
and what it contained to be held up
in shaky fingers to her breast
(where her heart now worked unwilling
as a windshield wiper) to find,
of course, it was a perfect fit,
a garment made for her alone
centuries ago, and the roan would be there
nodding in the corner, unseen
by the others—not really a man,
a thing older than humans, older
than Christmas, as though a stone or log
could, with terrible effort, take
our shape to tell us something, something
we had to know but didn't want to
because there was no remedy for it,
not even children (it was much older
than love), and she thought of all that ruin
of beautiful torn wrapping paper,
the afterbirth of giving, and saw
also she was simply home, parked
in the driveway, sitting motionless
to stare at the fragile strings of light
melting in the drops that ran
across the glass, and it was then
she put her head down on the wheel
and cried softly because she knew
the reasons for crying and knew too
that if nothing was saved of all the works
of joy, nothing would stop wanting
to be reborn, which made life
a kind of defiance. Yes. Well, then,
drying her eyes, she was ready now
to go in, ready to receive
whatever the children thought she wanted.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Addition by Subtraction

For close to 20 years, starting in the early 1970's, I was a reviewer for Kliatt, which publishes a bimonthly guide for school librarians. Kliatt was originally the brainchild of two former teacher-librarians, Celeste Klein and Doris Hiatt, who faced the dilemma that all librarians must face: a finite budget, and a close-to-infinite range of choices of new books published each year. Given that most of the new books that come out are not readily available for perusal unless you buy them first, assuming you even know about them, how might it be possible to make better choices? That's the question that Celeste and Doris thought about, and the answer, in retrospect, seems obvious enough: you put together a magazine for librarians that will provide them with reviews of recommended books. They rented a storefront in Newton, MA, got the word out to the publishers, and began recruiting reviewers. It wound up being a perfect example, long before the term became popular, of a certain kind of social entrepreneurship.

The publishers were happy to send along free copies of their new books, in the hopes that they would be selected for review and possible purchase by school libraries. The librarians were happy to have solid information to help them make their choices. The reviewers, like me, were happy to be able to go to the office and select books to read, for free. The deal was that if you chose a book you were responsible for giving it a careful read, and if you thought it was worthy of recommendation you wrote a review. If you thought it was either not a good book or not appropriate for a school audience, you didn't have to write a review. In either case, the book was yours to keep. And Celeste and Doris were happy, or seemed to be happy, to be gainfully employed in an area of business that fit very nicely with their values and their personalities. So it was a good deal all around.

I was talking about my Kliatt experience with my students just before Christmas break, because they are in the process of finishing off their semester projects, most of which involve at least some writing. (Many of them involve a lot.) And so as they have been finishing their early drafts the focus has shifted to revision, and I've been trying to share with them some useful suggestions about that process. The first and perhaps most powerful rule of revision that I share with students is one which has been around in one form or another for a very long time. Strunk and White famously advise, "Omit needless words." Similarly, Hemingway, A Moveable Feast, writes

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, "Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written. Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline.

Hemingway's implied suggestion is to "cut that scrollwork and ornament out," and that principle of economy is what lies behind the standard all-purpose recommendation that I make to students: "Cut 20%." Of course, when you actually make the effort to do so, you may in fact wind up cutting 20%, or 40%, or only a few words here and there. The actual percentage isn't important, so much as the effort that one makes as a writer to scrutinize each sentence, to weigh each word and phrase, to make each choice purposeful.

It's advice I myself had gotten in high school and college, and understood to be true at a purely conceptual level, but it did not become part of my regular routine as a writer until I started writing for Kliatt. In the interests of representing more books in any given issue, reviewers were strongly encouraged to be concise. Usually the first drafts of my reviews would come in at 1200 or 1400 words, and then I'd have to narrow them down to 500 or 600. I wrote hundreds of reviews over the year, always having, at the end, to go back into them and look hard at every syllable, and it was, as Hemingway has it, "a good and severe discipline."

I wind up spending a good proportion of my time with students, as I read their papers or meet with them in individual conferences to go over, say, their college essays, doing little more than crossing out words, phrases, sentences, whole paragraphs. It's a process of addition by subtraction. Less is more.

Kliatt is, as the URL at the top of this post indicates, still around, with my friends from the early days, Claire Rosser and Jean Palmer, at the helm. Since moving to Hawaii in 1998, I'm no longer in the stable. But it's a worthy publication, and I look back on my years as a reviewer with some fondness. Those of you with connections to school libraries may want to take a look.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quality Time (II)

Well, it's over. Today was the last day of classes for the year 2007. We'll have eight more days of semester one classes in January, then a week of exams, and start the second semester on the 22nd of January. But aside for some mopping up and some attempts at closure, it's basically game over. Most of my students are handing in their semester projects today. I've given them the option of handing them in when they get back, if they feel they need the extra time, but my recommendation has been that they get it in today so that they can enjoy the vacation without having the project hanging over them.

There's a passage about midway through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which Pirsig identifies as being a defining moment in his thinking: He's visiting the building in which he spent the early part of his teaching career, and he recalls a colleague, Sarah, who "came trotting by with her watering pot...going from the corridor to her office, and she said "I hope you are teaching Quality to your students." This is a la-de-da, singsong voice of a lady in her final year before retirement about to water her plants. That was the moment it all started. That was the seed crystal."

Much of the rest of the novel recounts Pirsig's pursuit of the what might be called the question of Quality: what it is, how you recognize it, how you produce it, how you teach it. It's a concept which has been much on my mind of late. I've spent a lot of hours in the last few weeks working with kids to help them produce work which has Quality. I've been talking with sophomores about their projects, with seniors about their projects, with other seniors about their college essays, and with the Ka Wai Ola staffers (that being our literary magazine, which we publish twice a year) about how to make sound judgments about the quality of the work that we choose to publish.

I've also been turning over in my mind quality discriminations in the reading I've been doing. A student brought Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns to school last week and told me it was a book I should read, so I read it. It's an engrossing, if somewhat grim story, character-based, clearly written in a workmanlike manner. You can open the book more or less at random and see competently delivered action sequences like this:

Mariam turned one corner, then the other. She found the correct street but suddenly could not remember which was Rasheed's house. She ran up then down the street, panting, near tears now, began trying doors blindly. Some were locked, others opened only to reveal unfamiliar yards, barking dogs, and startled chickens. She pictured Rasheed coming home to find her still searching this way, her knee bleeding, lost on her own street. Now she did start crying. She pushed on doors, muttering panicked prayers, her face moist with tears, until one opened, and she saw, with relief, the outhouse, the well, the toolshed. She slammed the door behind her and turned the bolt. Then she was on all fours, next to the wall, retching. When she was done, she crawled away, sat against the wall, with her legs splayed before her. She had never in her life felt so alone.
This passage advances the narrative in very pragmatic way. It's cinemagraphic without being particularly artful; it evokes sympathy for the dilemma of the main character by drawing upon a fairly predictable array of imagistic options and culminating in a throwaway cliché: lost in the street, bleeding knee, throwing up, crawling away, feeling "so alone."

Hosseini has, I think, honorable ambitions. He's both a storyteller and an educator: he wants to portray for his readers the very real suffering that the citizens of Afghanistan, and, in this book, particularly the women of Afghanistan have undergone as a result of the belligerence and brutality of men driven by ignorance, greed, political and religious dogmatism, and lust for power and dominance. He is also attempting to answer some of the questions that the 9/11 attacks raised in the minds of most Americans: where did all this come from? What are the sources of this kind of religious and political fanaticism? These are worthwhile objectives, and clearly there is a ready work in this vein.

There are, however, three problems with what the way he goes about it. The first is that he's just not a very good writer. In the passage above, and in the rest of the book, there isn't much prose that is different stylistically or conceptually distinguishable from anything a competent high-school junior might not produce. The second is that he's simply too much in charge: he knows exactly what he's doing and where he's going, and the story has a paint-by-numbers feel to it, particularly at the end, which is uplifting and heartening in a way that seems calculated and, ultimately, false.

I had actually started reading Don DeLillo's Falling Man before Hosseini's book, and put it aside because I wanted to get the student's book back to her before the holiday break. Returning to DeLillo foregrounded for me the shortcomings of Hosseini's writing. Once again, more or less at random, here is a representative narrative passage:

He worked his way through the frozen zone, south and west, passing through smaller checkpoints and detouring around others. There was a Guard troop in battle jackets and sidearms and now and then he saw a figure in a dust mask, man or woman, obscure and furtive, the only other civilians. The street and cars were surfaced in ash and there were garbage bags stacked high at curbstones and against the sides of buildings. Everything was gray, it was limp and failed, storefronts behind corrugated steel shutters, a city somewhere else, under permanent siege, and a stink in the air that infiltrated the skin.
This passage also shows a character in distress on a street. It also is cinemagraphic, easy to visualize. What's different is the freshness of the imagery, the subtle and satisfying surprises embedded in almost every sentence: the street and cars "surfaced in ash," the city "limp and failed," the "stink in the air that infiltrated the skin." I can no more imagination Khaled Hosseini ending a sentence with a phrase like that than I can imagine 50 Cent singing an aria. The two novelists are inhabiting different realms insofar as Quality is concerned. One is a craftsman; one is an artist. One I read with interest; one I read with interest and appreciation and delight.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Body Language 101

Over at The Valve, Bill Benzon links to this pretty entertaining deconstruction of body language:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Students 2.0

A collaborative enterprise involving students across the world putting together their own edublog is taking off this week. Check it out at Students 2.0.

Students 2.0 Launch Teaser from Sean on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Probable and the Possible

Today our writer-in-residence, Chang-rae Lee, led a one-hour workshop discussion with a group of middle school English teachers. This workshop was really about learning how to become better readers, so that we can help our students to become better readers, so that they may, some day, become better writers. "You can't teach someone to write without first giving them an appreciation of reading. That's what they will have to draw upon when they go to write. Practice reading with a writerly eye and thinking consciously about what the writer has chosen to do, line by line." So that's basically what we did. Chang-rae had asked us to read a fairly short (four page) and quite wonderful short story called "Pet Milk" by Stuart Dybek, and he basically asked us to work through it with him, sequentially and deliberately, paying attention to and asking questions about the choices the writer made from line to line, sentence to sentence.

This is a different kind of reading than we often ask students to do. Often, in schools, we manage to convey the impression to students that stories are somehow to be thought of as elaborate puzzles, and that it is the goal of readers to find the "hidden meaning." I have students who have described their impression of what they have been taught in more or less exactly those words. But, as Chang-rae observed, "literature is not created as a compendium of signs and symbols." Stories, he argued, are about what Flannery O'Connor called "the mystery of of personality." Stories are about people, and about possibility.

"Pet Milk" is about a young man and one of his early girlfriends, Kate. But that's not where the story begins. It begins like this:
Today I've been drinking instant coffee and Pet milk, and watching it snow. It's not that I enjoy the taste especially, but I like the way Pet milk swirls in the coffee. Actually, my favorite thing about Pet milk is what the can opener does to the top of the can. The can is unmistakable—compact, seamless looking, its very shape suggesting that it could condense milk without any trouble. The can opener bites in neatly, and the thick liquid spills from the triangular gouge with a different look and viscosity than milk. Pet milk isn't real milk. The color's off, to start with. There's almost something of the past about it, like old ivory. My grandmother always drank it in her coffee. When friends dropped over and sat around the kitchen table, my grandma would ask, "Do you take cream and sugar?" Pet milk was the cream.

There was a yellow plastic radio on her kitchen table, usually tuned to the polka station, though sometimes she'd miss it by half a notch and get the Greek station instead, or the Spanish, or the Ukrainian. In Chicago, where we lived, all the incompatible states of Europe were pressed together down at the stat- icky right end of the dial. She didn't seem to notice, as long as she wasn't hearing English. The radio, turned low, played constantly. Its top was warped and turning amber on the side where the tubes were. I remember the sound of it on winter afternoons after school, as I sat by her table watching the Pet milk swirl and cloud in the steaming coffee, and noticing, outside her window, the sky doing the same thing above the railroad yard across the street.
We began by looking at the these two paragraphs. Chang-rae told us, "I like to ask very simple, almost dumb questions. Why does this particular story start here? And what does that suggest about what the writer wants us to think about?" We talked about that beginning, about the focus on one particular object, about the overtones and undertones of the very first sentence, about the grandmother and her radio, whose presence in the story raises other questions: "Why do does the writer stay for so long here? Why did he bother with it? Why not something else?" As we thought about and tried to articulate answers to those questions, we found ourselves getting deep into the visible and invisible threads of connection in the story, its architecture. As Chang-rae suggested, "Writing is a series of notions and ideas and details that come together in an orchestrated way. My goal with my students is to talk about any piece of writing and its aesthetic universe. A story is an instituted universe."

When a writer decides to work into the details of a moment, that becomes a form of characterization, "The density of the details reveals something of the character's desires and needs." In this case, as some people noted, the swirling of the pet milk and the swirling of the sky and the swirling of the memories and, later, the swirling of the emotions between Rudi and Kate are interconnecting threads in this "orchestrated universe," a universe that foregrounds, as all stories must, a certain kind of movement.

Our discussion itself did some swirling of its own, from the story itself to the art of writing to student understandings about reading and writing. Most of our students, even the adept ones, perhaps especially the adept ones, think only in terms of linear movement, plot as sequence of events. "Student writers write and move on. They don't write as if they're bearing treasure as they move. But that kind of sustained vision justifies everything that has come before and goes after."

There are other points in the story where the writer lingers. For example there's a passage when the narrator and Kate are at a restaurant celebrating his 22nd birthday:

The waiters in the Pilsen wore short black jackets over long white aprons. They were old men from the old country. We went there often enough to have our own special waiter, Rudi, a name he pronounced with a rolled R. Rudi boned our trout and seasoned our salads, and at the end of the meal he'd bring the bottle of creme de cacao from the bar, along with two little glasses and a small pitcher of heavy cream, and make us each a King Alphonse right at our table. We'd watch as he'd fill the glasses halfway up with the syrupy brown liqueur, then carefully attempt to float a layer of cream on top. If he failed to float the cream, we'd get that one free.

“Who was King Alphonse anyway, Rudi?” I sometimes asked, trying to break his concentration, and if that didn't work I nudged the table with my foot so the glass would jiggle imperceptibly just as he was floating the cream. We'd usually get one on the house. Rudi knew what I was doing. In fact, serving the King Alphonses had been his idea, and he had also suggested the trick of jarring the table. I think it pleased him, though he seemed concerned about the way I'd stare into the liqueur glass, watching the patterns.

“It's not a microscope,” he'd say. “Drink."

He liked us, and we tipped extra. It felt good to be there and to be able to pay for a meal.

So what is Rudi doing in this story? Why is he there? Why does the author, in a story that is only four pages long, give Rudi so much room, pay so much attention to him? What does Rudi's presence suggest about the narrator's desires and needs? Those questions led to further discussion, which again led us deeper into this "orchestrated universe."

The story ends, as many great stories do, improbably, surprisingly. The narrator and his girlfriend are on a train, and they're making out, and the train is barreling through a station, and the narrator says:

The train was braking a little from express speed, as it did each time it passed a local station. I could see blurred faces on the long wooden platform watching us pass—businessmen glancing up from folded newspapers, women clutching purses and shopping bags. I could see the expression on each face, momentarily arrested, as we flashed by. A high school kid in shirt sleeves, maybe sixteen, with books tucked under one arm and a cigarette in his mouth, caught sight of us, and in the instant before he disappeared he grinned and started to wave. Then he was gone, and I turned from the window, back to Kate, forgetting everything—the passing stations, the glowing late sky, even the sense of missing her—but that arrested wave stayed with me. It was as if I were standing on that platform, with my schoolbooks and a smoke, on one of those endlessly accumulated afternoons after school when I stood almost outside of time simply waiting for a train, and I thought how much I'd have loved seeing someone like us streaming by.

The shift in point of view, the sudden move toward dis-embodiment, is both startling and revelatory. It's not what we expect, it's not what is probable. But that, Chang-rae suggested, is what makes it interesting and powerful. "Having created an image, it's the job of the writer to make something of it. We're writing to discover what's possible in the next paragraph, the next sentence. Student writers are attracted to the probable. If something happens 90% of the time in a certain way, they'll write about that. Great writer's don't do that. Great writers invite the possible."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


In our high school, as in many, perhaps most, other schools, students are expected to walk along the thin line between being challenged, productively engaged, and more or less happy and being stressed, sleep-deprived, and more or less miserable. Students get the message that if they are going to be taken seriously by colleges they are expected to get all their schoolwork done, keep up with their homework, do well on tests in as many as seven different subjects, take part in school activities, do extensive community service, have an area of specialty (violin, perhaps, or robotics), maintain a wholesome social life, and be able to hold forth with poise and self-assurance on topics ranging from presidential politics to palindromic prosody. In the context of the students over-busy lives, homework becomes, for many of them, a problem. Students often comment ruefully that the problem is that every teacher seems to feel that his/her own subject is the most important one, and to think that his/her assignments are the ones that should get priority. A number of commentators, among them Alfie Cohn, have recently begun to argue that our assumptions about benefits of homework are false, and that as matter of sound social, psychological, and pedogical policy homework should be either drastically curtailed or entirely eliminated.

The administrators at our school, to their credit, from time to time, ask the department heads to encourage discussion amongst the teachers about homework: why we give it, how much we give, what we hope the students will get out of it. About a week and a half ago I polled my department to get a sense of the condition of our condition with regard to homework. The questionnaire was informal and the questions were not scientifically framed, and not everyone in the department was at the meeting. But the results do paint a picture that more or less confirmed my sense of where we are as a department:

Homework is an essential component of my course.
95% (17 of 18) agree

I give some sort of homework pretty much every night.
89% (16 of 18) agree

Time I expect my students to spend, on average on homework:
Less than 15 minutes 6% (1)
15 minutes to half an hour 24% (4)
Half an hour to an hour 70% (12)
More than an hour (0)

I could teach my course just as effectively if I gave less homework.
20% (3 of 15) agree; 80% (12 of 15) disagree

I grade my students on their homework.
88% (15 of 17) agree.

I quiz students on the readings they do.
69% (11 of 16) agree.

I quiz students on the vocabulary from the readings they do.
42% (5 of 12) agree.

It takes me, on average, how long to return written homework to students:
One day 19% (3)
Several days 44% (7)
A week or so 31% (5)
Several weeks 6% (1)

I allow students to revise and resubmit written homework assignments.
61% (11 of 18) agree

I allow students to do extra credit work to make up missing assignments.
38% (6 of 16)

I allow students to do open-ended free choice writing for homework.
75% (12 of 15) agree

Based partially on what I see here, partially on my sense of what's behind these figures, and partially on my own thoughts, since I am with the majority in most of these categories, here's a preliminary attempt to frame a statement of policy about homework. This essentially a zero draft of a document that I hope to work through with the department over time, with the goal of coming up with a statement that is clear, accurate, and acceptable to everyone in the department. If any of you readers out there have been through such a process and have documents of a similar nature to share perhaps you could email them to me. Anyway, here goes:

We value homework. Given that we have limited class time (most of our courses meet either four days out of six for an hour (56 hours per semester) or three days out of six for an hour and a half (63 hps)) we seek to use class time primarily for the kinds of activities that require face to face interaction, activities like direct instruction, large-group discussion, small-group interaction, oral reading, and presentations. We generally ask students to do the bulk of their reading and writing—which are of their very nature most often solitary activities anyway—as "homework," which might literally be done at home, or might be done during free time (which many students actually do have) at school.

We recognize that there is a limit to what students can reasonably be expected to do. We expect that students will spend, on average, half an hour a night on homework, and certainly not more than an hour. We value the work done for homework enough to include it as a factor in the grade for the course.

Since one of the purposes of homework is to allow students to try out modes of thinking and writing with the goal of continuous improvement, we do make an effort to get the assignments back, with appropriate feedback, to the students in a timely manner, usually (except in the case of major projects) within a few days of when they are handed in. Once the students have been given back their work, there is often the possibility that the work can be revised and resubmitted. The goal of this particular option is not to encourage students to hand in substandard work the first time, but to allow them to be able to experience what it feels like to have handed in work which ultimately does meet the standard set by the teacher.

Finally, while we do see the need for and often give teacher-designed assignments targeting specific reading, writing, or thinking skills, we also value the individual student voice and try to provide students with the opportunity to write on topics and in forms of their own choosing. Our role as teachers in reading and responding to these pieces of writing is to provide useful and constructive feedback about what is successful in the writing, what is unclear or inaccurate, and how the piece might be improved.

Okay. That's it for now. I have a meeting with some of my teachers tomorrow morning and I'll put this very preliminary draft in front of them and ask for feedback. Any of you want to jump in, feel free.