16 November 2017

Dear Thinkers,

Today we fill our sixteenth cup to fill our fourth quart to fill our first gallon. What’s important to remember is that all of these measures–16 cups=4 quarts=1 gallon–are equivalent.

This is a big idea in fourth grade, and it’s not just one we talk about in math. How is a theme of this poem like this other poem? How are these two words related? How do these two events in Colorado history relate to each other and to the bigger story of our state’s past?

You could just memorize 16 cups=4 quarts=1 gallon, but I think it’s better to see it actually happen and “feel” the way they are equivalent. That feeling or idea will stay with you longer and you will find it useful throughout your life.

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck

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15 November 2017

Dear Writers,

A lawyer friend was at my house the other day, and he was typing up a document to sell his car. And I said to him, “That’s some serious magic!”

Magicians say abracadabra to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but my friend used his own incantations to turn his car into money. That’s far more impressive! The pen (or word processor) truly is more powerful than the sword.

Words mobilize armies, merge billion dollar companies, marry partners, and move believers. When you learn to write well, you gain the greatest power that humans have.

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck

14 November 2017

Dear Explorers,

There’s a huge world out there beyond our own lives. We’re only one of the hundred billion (or so) humans who have existed on the world. It’s important that we try to see the world from some of these other perspectives.

Reading widely is one way we can do this. Not only can books expose us to different histories, cultures, and ways of life, but I think the act of reading–seeing the world from another’s point of view–builds empathy.

So look at your book stack. Are you reading widely? Are you exploring the wide world?

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck

13 November 2017

Dear Thinkers,

Poets tell us how different things are mostly the same. Robert Frost showed us how fireflies were like the stars (although they don’t shine for as long). Mathematicians show us how the same thing can be thought of in many different ways. Last week we saw that 3/4 could be 9 inches, $0.75, or 45 minutes.

The wide world is a messy and complex place that doesn’t seem to make much sense. But, if we learn to think metaphorically like poets and analytically like mathematicians, some sense of order is possible.

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck

8 November 2017

Dear Learners,

I’m into baseball, so I have shelves full of baseball books. Many of those books tell the same stories, and I’ve read those same stories over and over and over. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve read the story of Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World?

To know a thing well, you have to learn it again and again. Learning isn’t about getting something one time and plopping it into the old brainpan. Learning is about having an ongoing conversation with ideas, and ideas grow out of knowing a thing inside and out.

And it takes time and it takes effort.

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck

7 November 2017

Dear Essayists,

Writers—all writers—rely on structure. While it may seem that structure limits us, it actually frees us to focus on the most important parts of writing—our ideas and the refreshing ways that we present them.

As I told you yesterday, you’re lucky to learn about essay structure in fourth grade. This is the same structure you will use when you write essays in college, briefs in law school, or memos in the office. I wish I had learned this in 4th grade. Instead, I had to take a self-taught crash course when I was much older.

So pay attention to structure. It will make you a better writer, a better reader, and a better thinker. Once we figure out the structure of a thing, we figure out the thing itself.

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck

25 October 2017

Dear Readers,

The other day I was rereading a book I first read in high school and it magically transported me back to that moment, and I remembered how powerful and challenging books and literature can be.

My hope for you is that one day when you’re in high school or college or an adult, you’ll reread Tiger Rising and remember yourself how powerful and challenging books can be. They not only make life a little sweeter,  but I also believe that make us live life better.

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck

23 October 2017

Dear Learners,

I’m trying to get better at playing fingerstyle blues guitar and I’ve found that mostly what I need to do is get stronger. I need to grown a thicker callous on my thumb and get my fingers used to playing for a long time. And the only way I can do that is by playing every single day.

I think most of learning is about building callouses. We get stronger as Readers, writers, and thinkers and we find that we can focus on our tasks for longer amounts of time. Then, we find that we can read more, write better, and solve more difficult problems. But it all starts with that focused, daily practice.

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck

19 October 2017

Dear Readers,

We read books about the big issues. Tiger Rising isn’t just about a boy and a tiger. It’s about a boy’s relationship with his father and their shared sadness about his passed mother. It’s about the power of art and words to make sense of life. And it’s about the importance of opening yourself up to others.

The themes in a book fly out of the pages of the book and settle right in the middle of our real lives. And that’s why it’s so important to read: it helps us make sense of our lives and it makes us better understand the world. As one of my favorite writers put it, reading makes us feel “more alive and less lonely.”

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck

18 October 2017

Dear Learners,

The most important thing I can teach you is how to focus and persevere on a task. That’s the not-so-secret secret to success: fully engaging. Whether it’s reading, writing, or problem solving, focused attention is the way.

The most valuable thing you have is your attention. The biggest companies in the world try to find new ways everyday to capture it. But it’s yours to do what you want with. And where you put it is an investment in your future. So today I want you to ask yourself, “Where is my attention and focus?” 

Sincerely,

Mr. Heimbuck