Three Quarts to a Gallon

The Congress in Peru recently approved a law saying that the internet companies have to provide at least 70% of the internet speed that they are selling.  This law was designed to improve what the companies provide, up from 40%.  My question all along has been, if I am paying 100%, why are they allowed to give me 40%?  Thankfully, now it is 70%, but I am still paying 100%.

Can someone explain to me why they don’t just say, “We can provide this level of service and will charge you this amount”?  It doesn’t change the internet speed; it just makes the transaction clear. Then, when they give me higher speeds, I will be thrilled!

What if other companies did that?  Can you imagine a dairy company selling you a gallon of milk and promising you that there will be at least three quarts?

Anyway, I wrote to La República and offered this commentary… that was not published.

Si Movistar te puede cobrar 100% y darte 70% (La República, 20 de mayo 2021), imagínate…

Después de confirmar la elevación de 40% a 70% la velocidad mínima de los servicios de internet por el Pleno del Congreso de la República, el vocero de Leches Gloria comentó, “Estamos muy de acuerdo.  De ahora en adelante vamos a rellenar nuestras cajas de un litro de leche con un mínimo de 700 ml.”  El coordinador del mercado de Santa Anita también apoyó la decisión del Congreso asegurando que pueden re-calibrar las balanzas para que cada casera reciba un mínimo de 700 gramos en cada kilo de fruta o verdura.  Toyota, por su parte, anunció que están considerando la posibilidad de poner 3 llantas en vez de 4 en cada auto vendido. Todavía tenían que conversarlo porque 3 llantas sería 75% y eso excede el 70% aprobado por el Congreso.

Imagínate.

I thought it was funny.  I also think that Peru has other priorities right now with the pandemic and the election.

Learnings from Distance Learning

Beginnings and endings are wonderful times for reflection.  Maybe you are starting a new job, making a new friend, or celebrating the birth of a child.  Perhaps, on the other hand, you are leaving a country, ending a relationship, or mourning the death of a loved one.  All of these events invite pause, reflection.

How has the last year and a half been for you?  For many, including me, the arrival of COVID-19 brought change: Change in schedules, possibilities, health, and even brought death closer.  I have been teaching from home since March 2020.  Never in my life did I anticipate learning so much about distance learning, Zoom, and Google Docs.  But learn I did!

In the hope of holding on to the good, the silver lining in a difficult situation, I offer the following related to online, distance education:

  1. Relationships are still key.  Building and maintaining relationships continues to be the cornerstone of teaching.  When I know who you are and you know who I am, we can work so much better together.  I love seeing your cats and dogs, siblings and parents wander in and out of Zoom classes.  I love that you notice my haircut or new glasses.  I especially like it when, in the middle of class, you ask, “Can I show you a picture that I drew?”  Maybe the timing isn’t the best, but you feel comfortable and that is worth gold.
  2. Distance learning tools are only tools.  The real learning comes in the doing, the reflecting, and doing again.  We can use all the wonderful apps and programs, but without the purposeful lesson design that gets students doing the work and open to new ways of seeing and doing, the apps and programs are worthless.
  3. Today is enough. Maybe I had plans for more or different, but student questions and interest and worries led us on a useful tangent.  That’s OK.  That’s where we needed to go today.  When I am present to who you are today, right now, to what you need, right now, we will always move forward.  I am not going to assign you the work we missed; I am going to adjust my teaching for the new learning that we will do tomorrow.
  4. There is no learning loss.  Students always learn.  They may learn what we teach, and they always learn who we are.  There are all sorts of unplanned learnings that happen, too.  Always we start from where the students are and move forward.  If they missed something from a previous lesson or year we can sneak it in around the edges, in a small group or one-on-one.  Anyone who tells you that the students learned less this past year and a half is mistaken.  They learned a lot more, just maybe not what the curriculum guide says they “should” learn.  There is always a variety of student learning in a class; there is always a variety of levels of understanding in every class.  This year is no different.  We move forward because students always learn.

Take a moment and think about what you want to take with you from this challenging year (and a half!), and what you want to leave behind.  Move forward knowing that learning moves forward.  We continue to become.  So do our students.

A Year with COVID-19

On March 16, 2020 online, emergency teaching started at my school in Peru because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.  As of right now, we are still teaching online and there is still a global COVID-19 pandemic.  Thankfully, we are no longer in emergency mode.

I call it online, emergency teaching because, well, it was online and it was an emergency.  There were no solid plans in place, no best practices, and we had never used Zoom.  All of that has changed.  We have solid plans, we have learned and honed our best practices, and we are practically experts in Zoom.  I never imagined that I would have a YouTube channel, and that my one Zoom video would have over 2,000 views!

We have been very lucky.  The school where I teach and the families I work with have the resources to make online school work.  Yes, the teachers have worked hard to get up to speed, and the families have been incredibly supportive in the process.  The students have rolled up their sleeves and rolled with the punches–huge learning curve, inconsistent technology, muted microphones, … Yes, the students, too, have been amazing.  I am so thankful for the students, the families, my colleagues, and the leadership at school.  Together we have made it work.  Together we continue to make it work.

After a year of this, what have we learned?  What have we reaffirmed?  I have learned that technology is an amazing tool (when it works!) and there are some amazing technological tools that we can use.  Some of my favorites are Quizlet, Kahoot!, EdPuzzle, FlipGrid, and Padlet.  Technology is still only a tool.  The foundation of all learning is relationships.  This is true online or in person.  When I know my students and they know me, we can learn from and teach each other.  

When I first started teaching reading I knew almost nothing about it.  (I had been teaching middle school social studies and Spanish.)  The literacy coach at my school said to me, “To begin with, just listen to students and watch them.  They will show you what they need.  The theories you can learn later; the students will show you now.”  Brilliant!   Relationships still prove to be key and the students are still teaching me.

I have also learned that less really is more.  Less content, taught more deeply, will actually be acquired by the students.  I will never “cover” the material; I will teach the students.

Finally, we live in partnership with the environment.  When we treat each other and the environment with respect, we all live better.  I think Paul Wellstone said something similar.

A year of challenge has much to teach us.  I hope we continue to learn its lessons.  Thank you to all of the students, parents, and colleagues for keeping on.

Quarantine, Part Two

EstFHEaW4AAP6wKThe original COVID-19 quarantine in Peru started on March 16, 2020.  After about three months, restrictions began to ease and life returned to a more normal, though fully masked, version.  We never went back to school, and all teaching/learning has been done online since then.  A few weeks ago, the government announced that all classes will stay virtual through April 15 (of course that can be extended).

Yesterday, the government announced that with increasing numbers of COVID cases and over-full hospitals, the full quarantine is returning to Lima and other parts of Peru from January 31 to February 14, 2021 (we have a few days to get ready). Casinos, gyms, theaters, and restaurants will be closed to the public.  (I mention casinos first because they are first on the government graphic–interesting first choice.)  Restaurants can offer take-out.  Malls and stores will be closed along with churches and social clubs.  Supermarkets, pharmacies, and local markets will stay open at 40% of capacity.  People will be allowed to go for a walk or run for one hour daily; no personal cars will be allowed unless you receive a special permission.

So, here we go again.  If we get it right, the full quarantine will be lifted in two weeks.  If we don’t get it right, well, who knows.  It’s up to us.  As a community, how will we do?  It’s up to us, together.

Six Months in Quarantine

The COVID-19 quarantine began here in Lima, Peru six months ago, on March 15, 2020. While the restrictions are in a constant ebb and flow, one thing remains clear: The danger is real. Recent data for Peru tell us that almost 750,000 people have tested positive and more than 30,000 have died because of COVID-19. Of course the burden falls heaviest on the impoverished.

Teaching for me is still online. I still don’t like it much when I compare it to teaching in person, but I consider myself extremely lucky that I can work from home and my students can learn from home. In the process, I am learning much about online education and video creation. (I love the creative part of all of this! One of my videos has over 1,400 views!)

What will the future bring? In reality, no one knows. There will be more deaths and more people infected. Eventually a vaccine will prove safe and effective. Eventually more activities will return to nearer-to-normal with increased capacity in restaurants; international flights are scheduled to resume in mid-October.

Is normal, though, what we want? How can we take what we have learned about family time, a slower pace, and cleaner air into the future with us? I hope that we can hang onto the positive changes that this tragedy has brought.

Viktor Frankl reminds us that meaning can be found through love, work and suffering. If we cannot avoid the suffering, perhaps we can find meaning in it, if we are open to doing so. This pandemic has caused much suffering. I truly hope that we can find meaning in the suffering and make improvements in our lives and in the world. May the new normal be better than the old normal. It is up to us.

In Our Hands

hands-600497_640The headline in La República today says we will not go back into a quarantine.  The president of Peru pointed out that the citizens understand the need to take precautions, such as using a face mask and maintaining your distance, so additional time in quarantine is not warranted.  The newspaper also points out that the number of infections is rising again and that the hospitals are filling up, some of them are full.

I hope the president is correct–both about the citizens taking precautions and not needing to return to quarantine.  My prediction is that decisions will be made as needed in order to keep people safe.  I hope.

Earlier this week, president Martin Vizcarra’s new cabinet took the oath of office.  Many of the ministers have previous political experience but are new to their positions in this cabinet.  With this new group there seems to be a new focus on revitalizing the economy, especially in areas of extraction.  Again, my hope is that decisions will be made in order to keep people safe.  Far too often mining and logging result in environmental destruction and human misery.  While it is very possible to mine in safe ways, governments often do too little to protect the health of the workers and the environmentLead poisoning and unsafe water are all too common.

The combination of COVID-19 and economic problems can be a moment of reinvention or a time to double down on dangerous economic practices.  People make those decisions; the future has yet to be written.  I believe that we can care for each other and the environment as we rebuild a people-focused economy.  We can, but will we?

Harvest Unknown

Bowl of BlueberriesIn Peru it is National Teacher’s Day–Happy Teacher’s Day to all of the teachers out there.

For most teachers, I believe, teaching is a vocation.  (Yes, vocation, not vacation.)  I am sure there are some who teach so they can have summers off, or because they don’t know what else to do.  The majority, though, teach because it is part of who they are.  They love building the relationships with the students, building the enthusiasm in class, and building the knowledge/skills/wisdom of their students.  It is our way of making the world a better place.

Does it work?  I like to think so.  One of the challenges of teaching is that you never really finish.  An architect opens the building, a baker tastes the bread, a programmer runs the code.  A teacher is never done; this year’s students move on, and the next year comes with new students.  Occasionally we get a glimpse of our work when we see a former student on TV or in the paper (hopefully for something good).  Occasionally, we receive a letter from a former student saying hi or saying thank you.  Usually, we never know.

I was reminded of this recently when I received this picture of blueberries.  About eight years ago my wife and I planted some blueberry bushes in the backyard at our house in Minnesota.  These bushes take a while to grow and produce fruit.  About five years ago we sold our house to a friend when we moved to Lima, having not tasted the berries.  Today, that friend sent this picture and said there are more blueberries that she will soon harvest.  That is wonderful!  Who knew?

I knew when she wrote and sent the picture.  If you are looking for something nice to do, try writing a note to that former teacher.  Let him or her know that you are well, that you remember, that you are thankful.  Your former teacher would love to hear from you, especially on this National Teacher’s Day, even if you are not in Peru.

Day 100

Ver imagen en TwitterToday marks day 100 that Peru has been in quarantine.  In that time there have been more than 250,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 8,000 deaths.  Peru even made it to #6 in the world of confirmed cases.

This is nothing to celebrate.

Through their actions, though, Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra, and his cabinet have probably saved many lives.  For that, we can be thankful.  The decisions by the leaders haven’t been perfect, nor have the actions of many citizens as they evaded or disregarded the precautions.  In general, things could be much worse.  The struggle continues.

As we mark day 100, my school year is ending.  In 25 years of teaching, this is the first time I have been at one school for four consecutive years–actually 4 1/2 years.  (I was in the St. Paul district longer, but at many different schools.)  Ending a virtual semester brings the joy of accomplishment and the sadness of goodbye in an odd fashion: we’re not together in person.  I miss being with my students and colleagues.  Most of them I will see when we begin again, again virtually.  Stay tuned to see when the quarantine ends and we go back to the brick and mortar.

A fond farewell to those who are leaving.  I will be here.  Online.  Stay in touch.

Perhaps

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 1.57.22 PMAs winter approaches, and the temperature slowly declines here in Lima, Peru, the number of deaths from COVID-19 has risen to more than 4,700.  At the same time, some of the restrictions are easing for the public.  A couple of weeks ago, children were permitted to start going on walks close to their homes with an adult.  As of last Wednesday, adults are allowed to go for a walk or run.  Requirements: three kilometers maximum distance, wearing a mask, five meters from other walkers/runners, one adult leaving home at a time.  Restaurants have begun delivering food and some business are back at work.  Such is the ebb and flow of this pandemic.

When I went for a walk on Thursday (at less than two kilometers, it was the longest walk I have taken since March 15), I snapped a picture of the butterfly in a nearby garden.  Beautiful.

Of course not all is beautiful.  Not here, as I mentioned, and not in Minnesota.  In Minnesota the protests continue following the murder of George Floyd.  I completely support the protests that challenge structural racism and racist violence.  While I never condone violence, my experience and learning across countries and cultures help me understand from where the violence may come.  How many quiet protests have you heard about?  There are few example to point towards.

If the arc of the moral universe truly bends towards justice, we are headed for a better society.  There is much work, though, before we get there.  Perhaps, like the butterfly in the picture, we can go through change and emerge renewed, more loving, more just.  Perhaps.

Still at Home

As you may have heard or read, the quarantine and curfew in Peru was extended until April 26, 2020.  Online school will continue until at least May 4, 2020.  Those are the dates as of today, and of course they can change.  My guess, as of today, is that some restrictions will be lifted beginning on April 27, but I doubt that schools will open on May 4.

Here in Lima, the presence of many birds, more than usual, and clean air continue to please.  The nights are quieter.  I have seen Orion’s Belt on the cloudless nights, a rare sighting in the past five years.  So yes, there are some positives during these distancing times.  (I am not denying the bad news–I am aware of the huge death toll that the coronavirus has brought to our world.  I, though, do not spend much time taking in the hour-by-hour updates.)

What change will we be when the worst of the danger passes?  What lasting change will we create as we realize that, truly, we are in this world together?

Their challenges are our challenges; their fate is our fate.
Are we listening?  Will we act?