Weekly Photo Challenge: Up – My interpretation of this weeks challenge is a bit off and a bit different (अलि अलि फरक) and I would like you to first excuse my very terribly limited Nepali..I have only 7.5 weeks (७.५ हप्ता) of language (भाषा) under my belt and as you can see (हर्नुहुन्छ) I do not quite have the vocabulary to say (मेरो शब्दहरु छैन) everything I want to say in the tense I want to say it.
Well, as says the title of this blog, it is Friday and I am learning Nepali (म नेपाली ससदै छु). I am learning to speak (बोल्नुस), read (पढ्नुस) and write (देख्नुस्) Nepali. I’m enjoying it (म नेपाली मनपर्छ), but it’s exhausting. Class starts at 7:45 (कलसमा पाैने ८ सुरु छ) and in order for me to get in my Yoga (योग गर्छ), eat my breakfast ( मेरो खाना खाुछु), drink my coffee (मेरो काफ्ी पिउँन्छु) and bus or bike ride to the school, I must get up between 4:30 and 5:00 every day (प्रतिदिन म साढे ४ की ५ बजे उठ्छु).
Needless to say, I am very tired these days. (अाजभोलि , मलाई धेरै थकाइ लाग्यो।) So the best thing for me on a Friday afternoon (शुक्रबार दिउँसो), after 5 hours (पछ घण्टा) straight of class, is to catch a glimpse of something that is inspiring or funny (रमाइलो).
Here goes. We get a 10 minute break every hour. We were on our last break of the day (हम्रो अन्तिम ब्रेक लिनछाै). I went to get water and use the bathroom. As I began to wash my hands I noticed that the soap dispensers were empty. However, someone brought in a soap container until the dispensers could be re-filled. As you look at this picture, please remember that I am attending language training at an institution that teaches numerous languages…French, Russian, Chinese, Nepali, Romanian, Greek, etc.. The expectation is we will go to our respective countries and speak as fluently as possible in these countries while doing our respective jobs. My 2 emotions upon reading this bottle were delight and concern. Delight that this bottle was in the bathroom of a fairly prestigious language training facility which made me laugh and concern that maybe we should be focusing on brining our own English language training UP (माथि) a notch. Enjoy.
After reading John’s blog You Really Ought to Shut Up I was reminded of a time very long ago when I just got tired of myself. I got tired of my voice, of the negative self-talk, of the drama that I would create in my own mind about everything and everyone around me. I never felt good enough I always felt like I didn’t fit in. My life really seemed to suck.
In my own defense I was about 15 years old and was probably no more self-absorbed than anyone else in my age group but it really felt like the world was out to get me.
One day I had just had enough and I was tired of feeling the way I did and was confused about why I felt the way I did and so I decided to conduct a little experiment. I decided to become invisible. I decided I would pretend that I didn’t exist and try for once in my life to actually see how other people acted and re-acted without me in the picture. To basically “shut up” that inner voice inside my head that refused to let me believe that I was as ok as everyone else out there.
It started slowly.. I would softly and quietly fade into the background in social situations. I would not comment on things or express opinions (as much as was possible for someone like me). I would dress in a non-visible way.. in things that would not catch the eye of anyone.
I stopped talking myself into frenzies or in disrespecting ways. What began to happen was that in my quietness I began to listen more, observe more, take in more and also I began to realize just a little more about what was really going on in my world. Things I should have been noticing before, listening to before and acknowledging more before.
First thing I realized was that SOOOOOO many people sort of felt bad about something about themselves or wanted to change something about themselves. Everyone had insecurities, dysfunctions, obsessions and possibly a multitude of other discrepancies that never shown themselves as blazingly as mine and yet they were O.K. I wouldn’t have even noticed the problems of others if I hadn’t become invisible enough to see them.
I began to see that when a person made a mistake or embarrassed themselves people would notice more often than not but would get over it in an amazingly short amount of time. NO ONE focused on the problems of others or the mistakes of others as much as the person themself did.
It dawned on me that NO ONE even remembered the time 5 years before when I tripped down a set of stairs and bit through my lip while at the same time dropping a tray of food I had been carrying which ended up spilling all over this very nice lady and ruining her dress. NO ONE. NOT ONE. No one could recall the time I was giving a presentation in class and through nervousness burped and slightly farted at the same time. I felt I could never live THAT one down. The only time anyone even thought about it is when I brought it up.
My invisibility increased and slowly I began to realize that I was actually a decent person, or at least no worse than anyone else and without all of my personal insecurities and hang-ups people actually seemed to like me. I was O.K. I began to be less concerned with how others perceived me and slowly began to realize that my social awkwardness, misunderstanding of gravity and lack of coordination were just a part of who I was. I had other “mad” skills in many other areas. Still, this was not an instant recovery, it took years. Even now I sometimes just have to tell myself:
At some point in my life, either through raising children or teaching, I happened on a children’s book who’s primary character was a penguin named Tacky.
Tacky is an odd bird who marches to the beat of his own drummer. He’s socially awkward, clumsy and eccentric. He never actually fits in anywhere but he’s oblivious to that fact. I like Tacky.
Some examples of Tacky’s situations:
Tacky, the penguin, and his friends, perform a play for the little penguins in Mrs. Beakly’s class, but with Tacky in the lead role, things do not go exactly as planned.
Tacky and his fellow penguins on Team Nice Icy Land train hard for the Winter Games, but Tacky’s antics make their chances of winning a medal seem slim.
Tacky the penguin and his friends go to Camp Whoopihaha, where they scare each other by telling ghost stories around the campfire, never expecting that one of the frightening stories will come true.
The great thing is.. in every situation.. everything works out and usually Tacky becomes even more loved or at least more tolerated.
I wish I had known of Tacky when I was a bit younger. Now that I am closer to 50 than to 40, my eccentricities (craziness), clumsiness and social awkwardness seem to be a little more accepted by others or maybe just more accepted by myself. I personally wish there were more Tacky’s in the world. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think there are.
As you might have read in one of my prior posts, I have had a varied and wide-spread career path over the past 20 years. One of my prior jobs was being a teacher. There is not a job I have taken on that I have not given 100% to and this includes my time teaching. I taught for 2 years in Southern California before heading off to teach English in Korea for 3 more years. There were many things that happened between my teaching in California and teaching in Korea but that is the subject of another post I am sure.
My point today is that I have recently spoken to some old friends of mine who are still teaching. I have the highest respect for these people and 92.3% of teachers in general (note the amazing use of % to make a point) and still think of teaching as a noble profession. What I am shocked with is how little has changed in respect to why I left teaching in the first place. Our teachers are under-appreciated, under-paid, under-respected and hugely over-worked.
Before I left teaching in 2005 I was bitterly angry at how teachers were treated and I wrote the following letter and sent it to t.v. stations, radio stations and newspapers nation wide. I’m not sure what I thought would happen as a result of this letter (and I really did send out over 100 copies of it to everyone from Oprah to Good Morning America.) I still feel the same today as I did when I wrote this letter back in 2005 and I think it’s time for a revisit to the the wrath of Sam. I really don’t want to say enjoy with this post.. maybe I should say.. “Please think!”
To Whom it May Concern:
Considering all of the articles as of late that have been in the paper regarding teachers and teaching, I am writing this letter to introduce an idea that if taken seriously could really be quite an amazing opportunity. Now I realize that reality shows are on the down side of being a good thing, however, my idea is something that has the potential to really take off in this day and age of No Child Left Behind.
The show itself would be called “No Teacher Left Behind. Before I explain the premise of the show, I would like to tell you just a little about how I came to the idea. Sorry this is so long, but please hold out and read to the end.
I’ve been teaching for two years in San Bernardino, California. Here are some of the things I have seen in my short time teaching, most of the issues are directly related to No Child Left Behind and lack of basic funding.
Teachers do not have the basic school supplies necessary to begin the school year. Many teachers are buying supplies for their classroom to support their students’ learning. My daughters high school science teacher stated to the class that they had to be frugal with their Science supplies due to the fact that the teachers were required to buy their own supplies. In many of her classes, students are expected to copy what is on their worksheets because the teachers do not have enough workbooks or copy privileges.
Due to lack of space and over crowding, teachers are teaching in classrooms without walls or doors. I subbed in a first grade classroom where another first grade class had to walk through our room to get to theirs. This would be distracting for adults, imagine how it is for 1st graders. In my own classroom I am told I teach too loud. This is usually the time when the kids are most engaged. Sometimes teaching is loud.
An open ended journal prompt in my class, “What I have learned in school so far…produced the answer in 8 of my 20 first grade students..”how to take a test”. Two new first grade teachers in our building had to teach for 4 weeks or more in borrowed classrooms and in the hallway where other students lined up to eat lunch because the district allegedly ran out of money to pay to finish their portables.
During my first year of teaching I had 17new students out of 20 for the year due to the transient nature of people living in poverty. One student was with me for only 1.5 months before she was gone. Another teacher during one of the past 2 years had over 50 new students in one year. How do you think that teacher’s test scores are going to look?
Most of my 2nd grade students last year were at least one grade level behind. Most were not receiving services because there was and is no extra funding to support the kind of assistance they need. Most of the students who were not at grade level had already been held back once in their school career, and therefore went on to third grade with out having 2nd grade abilities. Some did not even have 1st grade abilities.
Being a year round district, we have every classroom filled year round. What this means is that a teacher comes into the classroom on Friday at about 1:05 and has until about 4:30 to set up their class to start teaching on Monday morning. This would include unpacking closets, arranging desks, putting up bulletin boards and getting their class list to make name labels for all of their students. Knowing that when class starts on Monday, that list will probably be different.
Many of our students have behavior problems due to poverty, lack of appropriate nutrition, abuse, language barriers, and the list goes on. There are not enough adults and counselors in any given school to help support an accountability and assistance program due to lack of funding. Most schools operate on a positive reinforcement program that gives up rewards to badly behaving students for good behavior to reduce negative behavior, not taking into account that most of the students are socially mature enough to gain the reward and then immediately go back to their bad behavior. This philosophy of positive reward for bad behavior treats students like they are stupid, therefore the behavior continues. This brings the whole class down.
Teachers who are in schools that have not met their projected growth goals with NCLB are being required to attend approximately 80 -120 extra hours of unpaid training per year. I have over 150 hours this year alone of unpaid training under my belt. Many of the schools in my district have not met their goals. Many of the schools across the nation are failing the NCLB goals. The extra training often involves reading research that supports whatever curriculum the district has bought. Some of the training we are mandated to attend requires we “learn” how the alphabet goes up on the wall. These hours are on top of the numerous unpaid hours spent lesson planning, correcting papers, conducting SST’s, completing accountability documentation for behavior problems, and conducting home visits to meet with guardians that we can not reach by phone.
Most teachers do not have the basic management and back up support in the classroom they need to effectively teach the high needs students that are in their rooms. (My first year in 2nd grade I had kids throwing chairs and spitting on each other, 4 kids with extensive IEP’s, 8 more that needed to have them, 13 that should have been held back due to not being at grade level, and 17 new students from the beginning of the year to the end.) By the way, none of my students could be held back due to IEP’s, being an English Language Learner, or they had already been held back, so they just went on to the next grade level without having skills for the grade they just left.
Finally to my NTLB reality show idea. I have spent almost 2 years trying to think of ways to inspire teachers and myself to stay in the profession. There are some awesome individuals out there who are trying to make a difference in at least 20 to 37 young minds on a daily basis and they do this year after year, because they love their jobs. They do this without backup and without funding. I’ve talked to teachers across the nation. It’s unanimous, from first year to veterans of 20 years or more, teachers are getting tired. The joy is being sucked out of teaching. Most teachers I know did not come into teaching for the pay. It barely supports a person. I won’t even touch the merit pay for teachers idea.
The reality show would operate somewhat like all of the current reality shows out there. Teachers would sign up and go through an elimination process based on a variety of challenges. There would be the Fear Factor like challenge of eating unknown objects in a cafeteria style setting along with relays dealing with putting bulletin boards together based on non-disclosed themes and setting up classrooms to fit an unknown size & population. There could be face to name recognition and instant teaching moment challenges.
No reality show is worth anything unless there is some sort of prize at the end. The prizes for this show would range from a years supply of classroom materials. A paid assistant in the classroom for a year to handle checking in homework, reading with kids, basic administrative tasks. A weekly massage for the year, a family vacation, or an individual spa vacation. We could make it viewer friendly by having viewers vote on what type of prize package the winner deserves.
The beauty of this reality show is we have a built in audience. Every year, just one teacher has an automatic 20-37 student fan base. Most kids adore their teachers. Even myself with only 2 years of experience, have about 600 built in fans. The entire student population at your school would support you. That’s just the students. Now if you include the students’ families, each teacher has a built in audience of over 1500 people minimum. Now if you had even 1 teacher from each state apply to get on the show you would have an automatic audience base of over 75,000 viewers. I guarantee there would be more. I’ve interviewed a variety of my teacher friends as well as my non-teacher friends, and every single one of them thought it was an exceptional idea. Most of the teachers would apply to be on the show just for the opportunity to win classroom supplies.
I realize this letter is a bit too long to print. I’m just sick and tired of all of the negative reporting on the teaching field, test scores, and low performing students and teachers. Overt 98% of the teachers I know are the cream of the crop and deserve that recognition. I hope someone reads this and cares enough, if not to produce this type of reality t.v. show but at least to stop for a second and thank a teacher.
There were hundreds of videos and news stories on how BAD our educational system is and why it is in such disarray. Ironically, just like in my last post the media wants a story and it’s easier to focus on the negative than the positive. There are several bad examples in education for sure but why not steer towards the positive first by re-affirming what is good. Supporting your educators by understanding what they have to do each day and the lasting impression the good ones leave on YOUR greatest achievement.. your child.
Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and no way of knowing how near the harbor was. “Light! Give me light!” was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour. Helen Keller
You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives. Clay P. Bedford
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. Henry B Adams
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum to the women and men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands
I was once asked why I volunteer.. I replied… no money.. only time. ~me
“The language of citizenship suggests that self-interests are always embedded in communities of action and that in serving neighbors one also serves oneself.” ~Benjamin R. Barber
I started volunteering as a candy striper when I was about 14 years old. I thought back then it would be a good way to get a resume started and it was. I enjoyed the experience and since that time I have spent time volunteering in every country I have visited or lived in and in all imaginable kinds of situations and organizations. I have volunteered in soup kitchens, schools, theater groups, troubled teens organizations, orphanages, clean up projects, transportation for youth programs, juvenile diversion programs, youth groups, summer break and reading programs just to name a few.
“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” ~Marianne Williamson
I have either volunteered or been somehow deeply affected or deeply helped by the following organizations and would highly recommend becoming a part of one of the below or for that matter any organization that donates its time to helping those who cannot help themselves.
Why else volunteer? Health and happiness. Make friends, be a part of a group. The more you give the more you receive. There are true health benefits to volunteering. Time spent helping others helps you put aside some of your own problems or even realize your problems might not be as big as you once thought.
This video is about volunteering in schools but I feel that it applies to all types of volunteering.
Someone asked me recently why I volunteered.. I smiled as these images ran through my head and recalled how much time I’ve spent and yet how much time I’ve gained.
Cambodia, Korea, Venezuela – Kids and adults feeling good. Charity events, fundraisers, laughing, crying, giving sharing. There is a thing called the cycle of poverty or crime or abuse. There is also a cycle of giving or paying it forward. This is something I am just plain passionate about. I’ve seen it change lives. As much as you give you receive.
“But where was I to start? The world is so vast. I shall start with the country I know best, my own. But my country is so very large. I had better start with my town. But my town too is large. I had better start with my street. No, my home. No, my family. Never mind. I shall start with myself.” ~Elie Wiesel, “Souls on Fire”
Well what can I do you ask? I’m not smart enough, strong enough, rich enough to do anything worthwhile. Where would I start? What would I do? What if I don’t like it? I say just do it. Try it. Don’t give up on it.
It’s not always the easiest thing to do. But don’t give up. You just never know what will happen.
Clouds will remain for me one of the most comforting things to behold and possibly the best form of escapism around. I have always been fascinated by clouds. I don’t know many people who haven’t stared into the sky trying to figure out what shapes could be found. They are ever changing, and always interesting. They are visually amazing, sometimes to the point of being heart-stopping. They are dependable. They have been everywhere I have been and they will be everywhere I go. In tribute — I present to you – – my favorite photos of clouds from all over the world- mixed up with a children’s story I would use with my 1st and 2nd graders in California. Enjoy.
One hot summer morning a little Cloud rose out of the sea and floated lightly and happily across the blue sky. Far below lay the earth, brown, dry, and desolate, from drought. The little Cloud could see the poor people of the earth working and suffering in the hot fields, while she herself floated on the morning breeze, hither and thither, without a care.
“Oh, if I could only help the poor people down there!” she thought. “If I could but make their work easier, or give the hungry ones food, or the thirsty a drink!”
And as the day passed, and the Cloud became larger, this wish to do something for the people of earth was ever greater in her heart.
On earth it grew hotter and hotter; the sun burned down so fiercely that the people were fainting in its rays; it seemed as if they must die of heat, and yet they were obliged to go on with their work, for they were very poor. Sometimes they stood and looked up at the Cloud, as if they were praying, and saying, “Ah, if you could help us!”
“I will help you; I will!” said the Cloud. And she began to sink softly down toward the earth.
But suddenly, as she floated down, she remembered something which had been told her when she was a tiny Cloud child, in the lap of Mother Ocean: it had been whispered that if the Clouds go too near the earth they die. When she remembered this she held herself from sinking, and swayed here and there on the breeze, thinking, thinking. But at last she stood quite still, and spoke boldly and proudly. She said, “Men of earth, I will help you, come what may!”
The thought made her suddenly marvelously big and strong and powerful. Never had she dreamed that she could be so big. Like a mighty angel of blessing she stood above the earth, and lifted her head and spread her wings far over the fields and woods. She was so great, so majestic, that men and animals were awestruck at the sight; the trees and the grasses bowed before her; yet all the earth creatures felt that she meant them well.
“Yes, I will help you,” cried the Cloud once more. “Take me to yourselves; I will give my life for you!”
As she said the words a wonderful light glowed from her heart, the sound of thunder rolled through the sky, and a love greater than words can tell filled the Cloud; down, down, close to the earth she swept, and gave up her life in a blessed, healing shower of rain.
That rain was the Cloud’s great deed; it was her death, too; but it was also her glory. Over the whole countryside, as far as the rain fell, a lovely rainbow sprang its arch, and all the brightest rays of heaven made its colors; it was the last greeting of a love so great that it sacrificed itself.
Soon that, too, was gone, but long, long afterward the men and animals who were saved by the Cloud kept her blessing in their hearts.