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.

Quarantine and Curfew in Peru

It could always be worse.

With the arrival of the coronavirus, Peru is in lockdown.  All schools are closed until Monday, March 30. All people in Peru are in quarantine until the same date.  No one leaves home without official permission, or a very good reason.  Police and the military are stopping people, asking questions, and detaining them if necessary.

If all goes well, schools will resume on that Monday with a flattened coronavirus curve.  Because some people are not following the directive, an overnight curfew will be implemented beginning tonight.  From 8:00 PM until 5:00 AM no one leaves home.  No one.  Starting tomorrow morning, no personal cars can be on the roads.  None.

During this crisis, I am teaching middle school from home.  Thankfully, my students have been wonderfully flexible as we figure out online learning.  Kudos to them, their parents, and the team of adults from school that make this possible!

I remember three years ago when heavy rains caused landslides that filled the rivers and closed the water processing plant for Lima (los huaicos).  At that time, the schools also closed.  If I had to choose (and I don’t want to), I think I prefer being locked down with water to living in Lima with no water.  Maybe a couple of weeks like this will change my mind.  I  will let you know.

For now, Zoom lets us keep classes going and allows for other gatherings, such as a St. Patrick’s Day Zoom with family in Minnesota.  And I am at home, unlike my fellow Minnesotans who are stranded here, waiting for flights home.  With patience and good humor, all will be well.

All will be well.

Closed by Corona

Today Martin Vizcarra, president of Peru, made the decision to close and/or not open schools until March 30, 2020.  Most private schools in Peru had already begun the school year (my school had already begun the second semester); public schools were scheduled to open in Peru on Monday, March 16, 2020.  This is to say that my middle schoolers will not be coming to school tomorrow as the teachers move classes online for the next two weeks.  If the situation warrants it, I am sure that schools could remain closed.

Is this a good idea?  Perhaps an over-reaction?  In Peru there are now 17 cases of coronavirus.  Considering population of almost 33 million, 17 cases seems pretty small.  The problem is that not all schools have the conditions necessary for students to stay virus-free.  According to one article, 10% of the schools in Lima do not have water.  If students cannot wash their hands, the virus spreads more easily.  Such a statistic begins to explain the decision.

While I would much rather have students come to school, I understand the decision.  So, I will look forward to learning more about online teaching as I practice it for the next few weeks.  I completed my M.A. in Teaching Writing from John Hopkins online; I have some experience as an online learner.  Three years ago school was closed because of the huaicos in Peru so I had the chance to get my feet wet in online teaching.  This time I will only get better.

If you have any suggestions for online learning, please let me know.

Limericks

As I teach my 6th graders, I will sometimes create in the style that I am teaching.  When teaching limericks, write limericks!

Lorenzo he searched for a book.
“I wonder which one of you took
The book that I had
And made me feel sad.”
Saw Ian and called him a crook.

——-

Said Emma to Luke here’s a dare:
“When Erick sits down take his chair.”
But Erick was wise
To the not-nice surprise.
Said Luke, “It’s not fair you’re aware.”

——-

Miranda thought, “Class is a bore.
“I can’t stand to sit on floor.”
She talked and she sighed
And she shouted with pride.
So Finlay he showed her the door.

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.

Unfair to Learn?

Is it unfair to learn?

As I teach my classes, four sections of the same grade level content, I become a better teacher-  I notice the mistakes that the previous class made;  I understand their misunderstandings; I see the gaps in my teaching.  I learn.  That being said, class #4 receives all of my learning from the previous three classes and produces higher quality work.  They may even receive, on average, higher grades (I will check to see if this last item is true).

Is this unfair for class #1?  Is it unfair that the teaching they receive, because they receive it first, will always be a little less complete and polished?  Is this like asking if it is unfair for the first child in a family to have to train the parents?

Now, I return to weave the threads of learning for that first class, perhaps with colors not as bright but beautiful nonetheless.

Recursos en español/ Spanish Resources

Here is a list of resources that I have been compiling over the years.  Most of them are links to texts and curriculum from all over Latin America.  Enjoy!

Son antologías que se usan en países de habla hispana de primer grado a 6to grado