St. Francis of Assisi

IMG_4723October 4th is the day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology.  People the world over admire St. Francis for his simplicity and humility, along with his dedication to peace and the natural world.  Yes, the world would be a better place with more focus on of all of those virtues: simplicity, humility, peace, and ecology.  (The picture to the left is of the town of Assisi in Italy.)

A Franciscan once told me a story about Francis that I had not heard.  A young monk asked Francis if he could have a prayer book.  Francis thought for a moment and said, “The idea of prayer is important, and having a resource to help you pray sounds helpful. Having a book, though, means that you need a place to put the book or a way to carry the book.  Where then, will you put that shelf or bag that holds your book?  Will you be afraid of losing the book, or of the book getting stolen? Where do you want to focus your attention?”  I am sure you can guess the response of the young monk.

If you are interested in learning more about St. Francis of Assisi you could start with the Prayer of St. Francis, or watch Franco Zeffireelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon.  While the movie looks a bit dated, it is a classic.  There are also many books about St. Francis, such as St. Francis and the Foolishness of God.

Oral Rehearsal for Writing

Do your students say what they want to write before they write it?  Whether it is a short exit ticket, the resolution of the conflict in a narrative, a lab report, or something else, there is a lot of power in oral rehearsal at every age. 

An easy way to do an oral rehearsal with your students is to do a think-pair-share.  You may have heard of this strategy where students take a moment to think about the answer to your question, and then turn to a partner who is near them to share the answer. To complete the cycle, have students write what they shared.

Another way to set up oral rehearsal is for students to have writing partners.  Before writing, partners can share what they will write about based on the instructions for the day.  After they write, they can share their writing and get some feedback from the partner.  I like to set up partners for the length of the unit so that students can build that friendship that good writing partners need.

Yes, all of this takes modeling and practice.

This week I did a small experiment with two of my students who are learning English.  I asked them first to write about a movie and I gave them five minutes to write.  Then, I had each one tell us about a book that they liked.  Here is a picture of their answers.  I added a word count to each text.Screen Shot 2021-08-25 at 3.39.47 PM

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Sure there is lots to work on with their English, but look at the difference in language production!  Oral rehearsal is definitely worth the effort.

Ask Some Questions…

…and then wait for the answers.

Screen Shot 2021-08-23 at 2.09.56 PMTeachers, at times, argue about silly things.  Years ago I walked into a classroom and into heated discussion that pitted Bloom’s Taxonomy against Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.  (Really, I did!) While there were teachers on either side of the discussion, they were all arguing for the same thing: Good Questions!  After listening for a while, our literacy coach wondered aloud, “How about using both to get the students think in lots of different ways about many different ideas?”

Screen Shot 2021-08-23 at 2.12.20 PMThat’s the ticket!  Let’s use the ideas of Bloom and Webb to motivate student thinking, speaking, and writing.  If you haven’t revisited Bloom and Webb in a while, now might be a good time to review the questions you ask, think about your wait time, and consider who does most of the talking in your class.  (Someone once told me that the person in class who is talking is the one who is doing the learning. It was probably that same literacy coach).

The resources (click on the pictures) are tools to get you thinking and to get your students thinking.  Have high expectations for your students and they will rise to the challenges that you scaffold for them.  All students can and do learn.  We can help them.

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.

The Road We Walk

When I wake up in the morning, sometimes I think, “Today will be the day!”

Today will be the day when the president of the United States says, “See how easy it was? See how easy it was to take a nation and lead its citizens down a path of fear and scapegoating? To prey on your insecurities? See how easy it was to take a nation, desperate for a hero in the age of Marvel Comics movies, and get you to follow me, look up to me, be afraid of me? Did you see how I quickly made our friends into enemies and our enemies into friends? Now do you understand how other countries allow despots to rise to and stay in power?

“Vilifying the other is easy. I showed you that, and you need reflect on your response. Now for the hard part- loving our neighbor. Now that I’ve got your attention, let us work together to find common sense solutions that will bring us together. Let us remember the values that make us who we are. Let us remember our common humanity, knowing that by working together, with and through our differences, we can find common ground for the common good. That is what my leadership is all about.  Life is not a zero-sum game where there are only winners and losers. Life is about becoming, becoming better tomorrow than we were yesterday, seeing the other as ourselves, and walking together.

“I invite you to walk with me down this bumpy road. We make this road by walking, just as we create the world every day by what we say, what we do, and how we treat each other. The power is in our hands to become, to grow together, to share our common humanity.”

Unfortunately, today is not that day.  Maybe tomorrow.

Will They Be Flowers?

“Will they be flowers? Maybe herbs?” As she asked her fingers played with the new leaves on the young shoots. A new leaf came off in her hand, accidently I supposed. She didn’t seem to notice; I didn’t care to comment.

“Flowers. They are coming along nicely, don’t you think?” I admired the growth, hard won over the course of several weeks.

“Yes, very nicely.”

We turned away from the window box and toward the cozy kitchen table. I poured some coffee. “Cream?”

“No thank you, Maria, I drink my coffee black. How long have the flowers been growing?”  We both sat down.

I added a few drops of cream and watched them bubble back to the top.  “I started a few months ago.” I dribbled a few more drops of cream into my coffee and took a careful sip. “A while back I found that big old window box at a garage sale. I fixed it up and brought it up here to the table by the window. The box is filled with a mixture of potting soil and the extra dirt from the front garden, carried up bag by bag. I bought the seeds and began the nurturing. This third floor apartment has the eastern advantage- fresh sun in the morning yet shaded from the afternoon heat. It took a while to find the right amount of water.” I took another sip.

She looked around. “Yes, you did get one of the better apartments here and you are one of my best tenants. But about the water.” She set down her mug. “That is actually why I stopped by. Next week, well, starting tomorrow, the water will be shut off. I have to re-do the pipes for the radiators and that requires the water to be shut off. There is really no alternative.” She took another sip from her mug.

“Seriously?” I paused, taking in the information. “Couldn’t you have given us more time to make preparations? There are 8 families who live here; no one will have water?”

“I am afraid not. You can gather water in buckets or the bathtub I suppose. You could also move out for a week. I’m not really sure what you’ll do and honestly, it doesn’t matter to me.” She stood up with an air of formalness, brushed off her blouse as if it had been soiled by its presence in my kitchen and walked the 5 steps to the to the door.  Without turning around she said, “I just wanted to let you know.” With one hand on the doorknob she turned her head and added, “Thanks for the coffee.”  She walked out.  The door closed with a click.

Stunned by the news, I took a sip of coffee and stared at her unfinished mug. There on top floated one, delicate leaf.

Becoming Peruvian Part 5

73667208-10B9-4342-A387-487EA9B67BF6Letter in hand we headed to Migraciones today.  The trip only took about 35 minutes, starting at 10:15 A.M., from La Molina; so far so good.

We arrived and quickly found Room 5 on the first floor, it’s the one straight ahead in the back, and I got in line to get my number.  The lady handing out numbers told me to go directly to desk 44, just like the letter said, and not wait for my number to be called.  The security guard told me I had to wait for my number to be called.  I waited.

A few minutes later my number was called by the lady at desk 45.  When I got there I asked Raquel about the letter, Mr. José and desk 44.  She said she could help me… and she did.  She found my file and went through the pages putting sticky notes on many of the pages and asking about “Islay,” the district where Mollendo, Peru is located.  Thankfully, Ana Maria was there to answer the questions.  She asked why I had two different passport numbers (the U.S. changed my number a few years ago) and was satisfied with the answer and my showing her my passport.  She did not ask about the names on the marriage certificate.

Questions answered, she showed me the document she had prepared and asked me to check it for accuracy.  I appreciated that.  Then she handed me a pen and I signed three copies of the document that she had prepared.  Then I marked each of the three pages with my fingerprint, right index finger.  She kept the three copies.  I thanked her and headed toward the door where they checked my backpack to see if I was stealing anything.  I wasn’t.

In two months they will call me to set a time for the ceremony.  Then I will become Peruvian.  Based on previous experience, I am expecting the call in three months, or four.  I hope to be proven wrong in my prediction.  Everyone was very nice and the process is in motion.

¡Viva Perú!

Becoming Peruvian Part 4

IMG_0533Today I received an email from Migraciones.  It says that I need to personally go to first floor, room 5 in the Migraciones office.  I have 5 days in which I can go beginning on Friday, March 1, 2018.  The letter says nothing about bringing any documents such as a passport or ID card (but I will bring them anyway).

I am very excited for this next step in the process.  I think I will go on Monday morning; that way I am within the window of 5 working days and I do not have to consider whether the letter means Thursday, March 1 or Friday, March 2, 2018.  By my count, about 55 working days have passed since my application was received.

Stay tuned…