Starfish

The dreadful evening news is filled with ills
Her gleaming eyes of planes that never land
The talking heads fill space ‘tween selling pills
And finish with cute puppies in the sand

Analysis is often hard to find
The whys and wherefores hidden in a cloud
But Sunday’s sales will mollify the mind
The deals! They’ll make a killing, feeling proud

Though sometimes there’s a tone that resonates
I take a breath and turn attentive ears
A problem I can tackle for me waits
Solutions not in months but many years

One more starfish thrown into the sea
The journey matters both for them and me

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Is it Getting Warmer?

Did you ever notice that houses and factories have chimneys that carry the smoke, the exhaust, the fumes up and away from people?  I noticed the same thing about cars- no company makes a car with an exhaust system that brings exhaust into the car.  We do these things because no one wants to breathe in the toxins that are created by combustion and burning.  We know that toxins are poisonous, well, by definition. Can we agree to this?

If that is the case, that the toxins that are created by combustion and burning are poisonous, then what if there were a way to avoid the toxins?  Wouldn’t it be better for everyone to not create the toxins?  There is!  There are ways to create energy that do not pollute and those ways are becoming cheaper and cheaper through economies of scale.  There are now more people employed in solar energy than in oil, coal and gas.

We also know that not all resources are renewable; someday oil, coal and gas will run out.  If we are smart enough to prepare for a winter storm or a hurricane, we are also smart enough to prepare for a world without fossil fuels.

Maybe you do not believe that the earth is warming or maybe you believe that the earth is warming but that it isn’t caused by human activity.  (My reading and my personal experience tells me that the earth is warming and it makes sense to me that 7 billion people could be contributing to it.)   Either way, if we don’t want poison in our houses or our cars let’s not put it into the air.  If we know that fossil fuels will run out, then let’s get ready for what is next.  There is no reason not to.

Resurrection

A few days ago I received a phone call from a friend of mine.  He had recently learned that he and his mother will receive their social security cards and residency papers.  They will be able to stay in the United States.  Wonderful!  We are lucky to have them- good, caring people; hard working people.  Gentle.

This family was forced from their home country by negative situations beyond their control.  They moved to the US only to live in the shadows, experiencing violence both personal and systemic.  When you live in the shadows you cannot fully participate and share your gifts.  You live in fear – fear that you will be sent back, you might lose your job and a thousand other fears.  Those fears, though, are nothing when compared to the lived experience that sent you away from home.

Now there is hope.  There is hope of permanence and pertenencia, belonging.  Having grown up in the only city he has ever known, he will now be able to participate fully in all of the rights and responsibilities of belonging.  Moving out of the shadows.  May we hear the same positive news for many other immigrants so that they, too, may move out of the shadows.

This blog was started about 5 years ago as an Advent gift for a 12 year old.  The waiting of Advent has come full circle to an emerging from the shadows:  Resurrection.

You always belonged.  Now it’s official.

Still Possible

A few days ago I was asked why I am worried about a Trump presidency.  The asker was not an ardent supporter of Mr. Trump but believed that Mr. Trump was a better choice than Clinton.  I am not an ardent Clinton supporter but believe that she would have been a better choice than Mr. Trump.

When I think of the United States, the country where I was born and raised, I think of possibilities.  I believe that it is possible for people of different racial/ ethnic backgrounds, different religions (or no religion), differences of many kinds to come together for the good of the whole.  I believe that it is possible to rise above tribalism to create something better than any of us could create alone, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  I believe that the United States of America is possible- that all are created equal.

When I hear Mr. Trump make racist comments I worry about his presidency.  I worry that people who are already on the fringes of society will be further marginalized.  There are many ways to be in this world.  We can celebrate those ways, accept those ways, without saying “my way or the highway.”   Someone’s difference is not a threat to me  (although violence is a threat that needs to end) if I am secure in my identity.  Maybe Trump’s comments were made in order to get elected; if so, those who support him because of those comments worry me.  Do they seek to limit the identity of the United States to those who are like them?  Do they seek to rid the country of difference?

When I hear Mr. Trump make sexist comments I worry about his presidency.  Anyone who knows a woman worries (or should be worried) about this type of violence.  Denigrating anyone is offensive.  Would I want someone saying such things about my mother?  My wife?  My daughter?  Would I want my son or my students at school to learn this behavior? If not, then it is not OK for Mr. Trump to say those things.  Maybe Trump’s more recent comments were made in order to get elected; if so, I worry about those who support him because of those comments.  Referring to people as objects is dehumanizing.  If we are all created equal then let us raise one another up instead of pushing some down.

When I hear Mr. Trump  speak against immigration I worry about his presidency.  Friends of mine have been told that, “Trump will kick you out, send you back.”  These friends are U.S. citizens.  Students have been cornered by groups of other students who shouted, “Build the wall, build the wall.”  The adopted daughter of a friend of mine asked her mom if Trump was really going to send her back to her birth country, a place she has not been since she was a few months old.  Maybe Trump’s anti-immigration comments were made in order to get elected.  Right now they are having an immediate effect on the lives of people who do not look white.  I worry about the people who supported Trump because of these comments.  This country is a country of immigrants (some of whom who added terrible violence to the lives of many of the original inhabitants of this land).  My ancestors came from Ireland.  The whole southwest used to be Mexico until the border crossed the people and included them in the United States after the war.  To suggest that the United States is a white nation is to ignore history.  We can welcome the stranger.

I believe in the possibility of the United States where we define ourselves as all of us.  I believe in the freedoms, rights and responsibilities that belong to everyone in the United States.  I believe in the gray areas, the messy areas, where life is not a dualistic either/ or, open/ shut, us/them.  Together we can navigate the muddy waters of gray, together.  Let us, then, rise above, come together to continue creating a welcoming, bountiful community where all are welcome and all is possible.  Let this be a place where violence and discrimination are shunned in favor cooperation and courageous conversations.

For now, I will wait and see.  I will never completely write off anyone.  Because you asked, though, those are some of the reasons that I am worried about a Trump presidency.

P.S. A self-described single issue voter asked me about abortion and how I could support someone who is pro-abortion.  To begin with, I do not know anyone who is pro-abortion (in the sense that a person believes everyone should go out and get one in the way someone might be pro-chocolate- I am pro-chocolate).  I do know that in countries where abortions are/ were illegal they still happen in very dangerous conditions making a bad situation even worse.  I also know that the number of abortions has been dropping since the early 1990’s and is down to numbers not seen since the early 1970’s.  Perhaps we can continue to improve education and situations so the number of abortions continues to drop.

Redemption

If rotten to the core
Means damned for evermore
Then redemption can’t be found
Not above nor on the ground

Ever? Never?

Dualistic thinking:
You float or else you’re sinking
Please rise above the fray
Visualize the shades of gray

If you’re pure down to the bone
Go ahead and throw that stone

Otherwise…

The World’s Largest Lesson

Please be aware of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.  You can find more information here: https://www.tes.com/worldslargestlesson/ and you can choose your language in the upper right hand corner.  This is important!!

La lección más grande del mundo

Listen, Watch then Teach

When working with my students in language and literacy I am always looking for data.  I don’t, however, rely much on standardized scores and summative assessments.  While helpful in a very small way, those types of assessments give me information more about me, the teacher, than about the student.  I look for data that I can use.

Every time I have a conversation with students I make notes about their learning, sometimes mental notes and sometimes written notes.  I try to keep track of their use of language and their thinking.  Every time I read student writing I make notes about their use of language, their ability to express themselves and their accuracy.  This is the data that I use.

This is the real-time data that shows me what students know and can do right now.  That data is then turned into large group, small group and individual instruction as needed to move all students forward.  I encourage students to make mistakes, use big words, enter into debates and not be afraid.  It is through making mistakes, I tell them, that I can know what the next steps are in their learning.  All done in a supportive environment.

Give it a try; it’s not rocket science.  When we pay attention to the students they will show us what they need.  When we listen and watch, we will know what to teach.