Thursday Notes – October 16th, 2014

How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


“To write the African story in European languages, Africans seem to have written themselves out of a lived African history into an alien and transitional narrative world.”

– Anthonia Kalu, from Research in African Literatures


African story tradition is rich and predominantly oral. When these stories appear in American children’s literature they have been translated, not only from another language, but often from another form. The American audience demands our ubiquitous narrative fiction form: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. Beginning, middle, and end. For several years our 2nd graders performed a re-telling of the Legend of King Sundiata of Mali. There was always something missing, though the narrative structure was present. One summer, I came across a transcription of the saga as told by a great Malian griot, (or jeli – the keeper of history through story, dance and music in African oral tradition.) It was full of humor, strange and wild imagery, and completely lacking in the familiar western narrative form. Based on facts, it was also packed with fantastic exaggeration. In a column to the right of the page, there was on-going commentary: “Indeed. This is true. Yes, truly.”  It seemed the response of a listening crowd. This looked nothing like the westernized picture books we had been using.

The more I read, the more obvious it became that the story was one for adults, not children. But many of the available picture books of African folk tales for children were obviously Americanized. In seeking something more authentic, I befriended Tololwa Mollel, a native Tanzanian children’s book author with a background in story-telling and children’s theater. He discussed the story-telling tradition he had learned from his Maasai grandfather. Listening, he said, is as important as telling in his tradition, and the commentary I had seen on the griot’s page was indeed that of active listeners, as there is no story without them. He said the richest value of a story is the lesson it teaches, not its entertainment punch or historical accuracy. Tololwa visited us a few years ago. He approved of and contributed to our process of adapting traditional stories for re-telling by our 2nd graders.

This year, our students were treated to a dazzling African dance intro performance by our own accomplished “Miss Dawanna” Benjamin African dance teacher Olivia Sledge has then taught us the basics. Tam Tam Mindingue guest Forrest Matthews drums rehearsals and will play along with “Mr. Bill” Scheidt at our performances. Working with acting teacher Heidi McIver, the students have created a unique retelling of The Cowtail Switch, a story from Liberia. She shared the tale fully, then worked with students and their teachers to develop an original script.  For the first time this year, the children will drum in their own show, after two months of practice with Mr. Wilbur. Included in the play is a unique “stick dance,” an exploration of adventures in the Liberian rain forest. Second-graders have been studying everything from geography and maps to cultural details and continental water shortages, in preparation for this adventure. They will drum, sing, dance and act their play this month in the ABS back space.

Cohen, October ­­­­28, 12:15-12:45

Sankey, October 29, 12:15 – 12:45

Broughton, October 30, 12:15 – 12:45



Live music!  Food trucks! Tie-Dyeing T-shirts! Street Soccer!  Art Supplies!  House of Style!  Freeze Dance!  Games, Games, Games!  It’s going to be AWESOME!  Two live bands will add to the fun. The B. Kin Band, including ABS dad Ian Byers and his siblings, will perform at about 2:00. Ms. Siebert’s CD Buffalo Gals: Historic Cowboy Songs of America’s Wild West will celebrate its official release with a live band from 12:30 – 1:30. (see attached document).  Only $5 admission per child (adults are free!).  Bring extra dough for the food trucks and select goodies (e.g. tie-dye shirts).  Fall Fest is a Parent Council sponsored fund raiser that helps to support the school’s annual operating expenses.  In addition to 100% of admissions, a portion of the profits from the food trucks will also be donated back to the school.  Don’t miss it – come hungry and ready to play!  Need more information or interested in volunteering, please contact Tommy Priest at



It’s time for clipping and counting!  Please bring in your saved box tops tomorrow for our first school-wide Box Top Collection Day!  We’ll have a volunteer posted at each school entrance ready to collect your stash!  If possible, please clip and count your box-tops and bring them in a baggie or envelope.  Each box top equals $.10 for our school – they really add up!  Questions?  Contact Lisa Ransom at


Ever wonder why your child listens so well at school but you have trouble getting him to even brush his teeth at home?  Frustrated that you raise your voice more than you’d like to?  Adopting some of the same positive discipline practices our teachers use at school may help things run more smoothly at home too!  Join us on Saturday, November 8th from 9am-noon for our Positive Discipline Workshop led by Principal Robin Hollis.  The workshop will be tailored for all ages – your kindergartener or your 8th grader!  Space is limited so sign up now in either front office with Nicole Whitaker or Donna Brown.  The cost is $10/family and child care will be provided.



The meeting minutes from last Friday’s Parent Council meeting are attached to this week’s Thursday Notes and may also be found on the ABS website under Parent Council.  Parent Council will sponsor November’s Positive Discipline Workshop on Saturday, November 8th which will also serve as our November meeting.



Please join us this Saturday from 9am-1pm as we work to beautify our school grounds!  Bring the whole family along with your gloves, hats and snacks – it’s always a good time!  Questions and RSVP to Matt Mayers at



ABS asks each family to volunteer one hour per week per child and continually offers a variety of opportunities to donate your time.  We’re at the end of our 8th week of school – how are your volunteer hours so far?  Need to make up a few?  Here are some great opportunities to catch up!:

  • Need child care providers for our Positive Discipline Workshop on Saturday, November 8th from 8:45am-12:15pm.  You may work part of the time or the entire workshop.  Contact Shannon Wright if you can
  • Volunteer for Fall Fest on Saturday, October 25th.  There are opportunities to help with set up, activities during the event and clean up afterwards.  Contact your Class Rep or Tommy Priest to sign
  • Join us for Garden Workday this Saturday, October 18th from 9am-noon.  Come for part of it or the whole time!  Contact Matt Mayers


ABS Scholastic Book Fair

The Scholastic Book Fair was a success! Total sales including the in-school and online fairs was $11,124.65!  Thanks to everyone that shopped and/ or volunteered for this great event. The sales will greatly enhance the Media Center and classroom libraries!


ACT Explore Testing

On Monday, October 20 and Tuesday, October 21, Eighth graders at ABS are required to participate in the ACT Explore assessment as part of the North Carolina State Testing Program.  This assessment is designed to be a first step in helping students be college and career ready by looking at each student’s interests and abilities to help them choose high school courses to be ready for college.  The ACT Explore is not part of a student’s grade; the information gained from the test is used only to help students consider future educational and career plans.  Look for further information in Thursday Packets.


Halloween is Coming

Please do not send students to school in costumes.  We all enjoy the fun and excitement of Halloween but find that costumes and accessories make it very difficult to concentrate.  Also we do not want students to bring candy in their lunch bags for snacks.  Although it can be delicious, high sugar snacks should not replace a healthy snack.  Thanks for your help!