Hi Ho, Hi Ho, and off to work we go!!!

I come from a family of hard workers. My mom has been a housekeeper for 31 years. When I was a young teen I remember going with her to work and helping her fold clothes, wash dishes, scrub bathrooms. etc. In the summers, while other teens were out at the movies, I was helping her collect beer bottles after a big parties at her job, or making beds after beds that were not mine. We always had a good time together talking, telling stories while making everything beautiful through our work. There was nothing my mom could not do and I mean nothing. Even now that she is 62 she still has more strength and more positive attitude than most twenty-year old out there doing the same job.

During their newest house renovations I noticed she had a new couch. It was one of those that make-it-around-the-corner couches that come in 3 heavy parts and she told me she not only loaded it in the car herself, but also carried it up the steps to the house. She is 62 and small framed, plus she has a bad back. When I asked her why she did not wait for my step-dad to get home, she said she was excited to get the house in order and was not about to wait for him.

My mom married a man who also is a hard worker. Just yesterday I called and asked how they were doing. My step-dad does construction and he often has to drive 2-3 hours one way to work. They were both in bed healing from a tough week. He apparently has a contract to tile 40 bathrooms. He has been on his knees all week long and had completed only 10 bathrooms so far. According to my mom his back was "mush". The amazing thing about my step-dad is that you will never hear one complaint out if his mouth. I would even go as far as to say he loves his job. Both him and my mom are always happy and joking while together and you'd never know the amount of physical work they put i weekly.

In this economy, one cannot afford to not like work. When people in social circles share their fears of losing their jobs I often realize I am not worried. Not because I am not worried I could lose my job. It very well might happen to me too; no one is immune from possibly losing their jobs these days. But in my gut I am not worried because I do not fear or hate work. If push comes to shove I'll change diapers, I'll clean toilets, I'll work at McDonald's, no problem. What I do for a living does not describe the totality of me....but how I do it does.

While a less enlightened me years back might have been embarrassed to say my mom is a housekeeper. I am most proud to have such a mom with such positive attitudes towards work and life in general. Aside from all the degrees, inside me runs the blood of Latino immigrants who come to this country for a better life and work less-desirable jobs with a smile on their faces.

At my job there is a lady who reminds me a lot of my mother. No job is too small for her. During a recent snowstorm I found her shoveling a foot-width path for 3 blocks around the school with the help of her young daughter. Luckily, her husband, who does not work there, but knows how to use the blower, showed up with the machine to finish the job. For anyone who has ever shoveled snow, this was a HUGE job......and here was a family getting it done with a smile on their faces......(picture below is my coworker, her husband and daughter after the storm, they've been shoveling since 9am and it was then 1pm.)


You'd love me if you knew me

We all have been there, we meet someone and right off you know they do not like you. As a teen I could not imagine anything more dreaded than not being liked. It was often like walking a tightrope, constantly trying to figure out how to make external feelings come to my favor. Forward many years later to the present and incidents like these pass leave me undisturbed. I have been there and know how it it to believe your own self-made walls more than truth and reality in order to simply shut someone out based on a few mere facts or assumptions. So when I encounter people who I immediately feel shut me out, for whatever reason, I never hold it against them for they are simply paying more attention to their assumptions than what is really there. I truly believe in my heart that in order to evolve as human beings, we need to question and begin breaking down these pre-made walls of assumption and see people for who they are.


My New Quote of the Month!!

I have loved quotes for years! They are easy to memorize and carry life lessons all in one single and simple sentence. My latest one is from Katie Byron and it reads like this:

"Personalities don't love. They want something"

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Oh, how true!! I have a visceral social "allergic reaction" to "personalities" since childhood and never trusted them. Could be years of personally witnessing people in charge doing abominable or less-than-respectable things. But just in general, people who need to constantly define and redefine who they are to you verbally or through actions definitely want something and it's often not anything positive.

When I read this quote I thought of my husband and why I love him so. The word "sencillo", a Spanish word, comes to mind, meaning simple-hearted. He is not or has ever been anything more than who he is and that is rare to find these days in men. I often refer to him as my "diamond in the rough".

Blessed Family....

I love being a parent. Obviously for all the reasons you may imagine, but for far more than that. It allows me to on-the-spot discern between the important stuff from the small and insignificant. People could be rude, things at work could be stressful, 100 things might have not gone my way that day, but in the end, it has no importance in the overall integrity of my life. All is well in the world if my children and husband are okay, happy and healthy. I come home and all work stress is no stress.
So I am now in my little world drinking tea and having my wonderful all-encompassing talks with my husband about politics and education and the news and have no memory of yesterday. I feel so incredibly blessed and do not take any of this immense happiness in vain.


Engaging the WHOLE child in Learning Makes for Long Term Retention

I have recently made a HUGE discovery in teaching my children that has revolutionized the way I think about my own teaching and reminded me of the key to teaching. Often when we walk the 3 blocks from our apartment to our car, Nora, my 2-year old, begs to be carried. I remembered that she is often deeply engaged in my stories when I try to get her settled for bed, so I offered to tell her a story to distract her from wanting to be picked up. In the 7 minutes it took to walk at a her slow 2-year-old pace, she lived though a "kitty" birthday party filled with mirth and packed with lots of candy, cakes, and presents. In looking at her eyes, you would have thought she was right there at the kitty party as the kitty's very own guest at the table. It was then that I realized, that we all love and live out stories in our heads, isn't that why as adults we love books? Books transport us elsewhere, to another world. I also realized through this experience the incredible value of the imagination in young children and how very little we use and engage it as educators. We watch this wonderful tool wither and die a slow painful death as we become less and less able to engage them thought this world of non-reality and amazing possibilities.
"The Arts" to the educated people is often lauded as a necessity and even thought of as an essential part of education. Yet, in conversations with people over the years I have come to learn that although art and music ARE essential, most people have no idea why they are so imperative for the education of their child and do a very bad job at explaining this "WHY". This is reminiscent of other such LOVES of educatedparents such as Einstein videos, Montessori, science toys, or theatre. They are regarded in high esteem but upon further investigation there is very little ability to explain the inner workings of why they are so affective with children. So what makes the arts so powerful?

I use to teach at a charter school in DC called S.A.I.L, School of Arts in Learning. At SAIL, I had to teach history, science and social studies by engaging the child's whole body and not simply their heads. To teach about the scientific method I got crickets and we explored the statement that they "would eat just about anything" for 2 weeks. Each night we would place a different item in with the crickets and see if they'd eat it. And sure enough, they ate most things we put in the aquarium. Children were alive with questions and participation. One time, in teaching about the Great Wall of China, children created a giant wall across the room with shoe boxes and while sitting around it wrote letters back home explaining their hardships in building this wall. When learning about immigrants and the significance of ElisIsland we built a boat and an intake center in the class in which people were welcomed to the US. Children again wrote letters home and journal entries about this life-changing experience as immigrants.

Th arts, acting, ,music, movement are so effective in teaching children anything because they feed the child's imagination which are active late into childhood if used. They are so effective because their bodies move and every muscle and cell in their bodies also has the ability to learn and retain information but only IF engaged.

I will forever remember the only memory I have of 5th grade. The science teacher had us rub various types of food on brown paper bag paper to assess the fat content of the food; the larger the grease stain the more fat it had. This single project is the one memorable education-based lesson I remember from this year. How can that be? and why? This makes total sense to me. This project engaged my hands, and not just my head. My hands remember doing this. Same applies to High School. I attended MarymountSchool of NY, a private girl's high school and here too, the lessons that have followed me all the way to age 36 are the ones in which more than my head was engaged. I remember dissecting a fetal pig, painting a landscape for the first time, going to see a play about the Great Depression; all of which I remember in great detail. Engaging the child's whole body when teaching is what separates one from remembering the lesson enough to pass a test, or enough to remember for a lifetime.


Action Separates One From Each Other

My goal for this year is to act. To stop being afraid of shaking the boat and actually make things happen for me and to trust my ideas and my judgments. If I don't like a situation I have the choice to either try and change it or go elsewhere. If a person makes me upset, I have the choice to try and fix it or move away. If my life is not going where I want it to go, I have a choice to make different choices....or not. But to complain about anything to the wrong people will no longer be an option.

This past week I experienced a situation which cause me to all of the sudden know so clearly what I needed to do with my life next.....we get very few of those inclinations or hints in life. It goes to prove a long held belief that clarity does not come from long hours of mediation or thought. Instead, clarity comes in moments when push comes to shove and it happens in an instant unfettered by fear or nervousness. The moment I came to this truth all worry and fear that had existed around the decision before, was no longer around, it had just simply vanished.


Let's rethink early reading.....

What does it mean for your child that he or she learn to read earlier than later?

Nothing...that's what.

Too often people take these ideas about academia and never even question them....

Do testing scores say anything about retention.

When I was in High School I did very well, yet I have no recollection of what I learned and too often I have to reteach myself things I teach my children.

Too often I would just memorize facts to pass the tests.....go through the motion.

So no, good grades do not guarantee that the information will be of use in the future or be meaningful beyond the classroom walls.

more than ever...I believe that a good teacher is one that can connect all new information to something meaningful to the child's life at that time. If the information is thrown from above, like rain falling out of the sky, it will be learned for the short term, but it will fade with time for it has no connections or meaning in relation to the child's life.

I am to make all my teaching meaningful and connected to the child's life.


Rethinking Schools

Although I have been teaching for 12 years I have never had more pep and soul and inpiration as a teacher then after I began having kids. Having kids makes it all come into crystal clear focus. When we started to have kids, my husband and I knew we would be doing most of the educating despite the fact that they would be in public school. We just knew from our own past experiences that a good school on paper does not necessarily mean the child will be inspired.

While in pre-k and learning his letters and numbers, we at home have taught our 5-year-old about things he's really interested in at this point in his life. He knows an amazing amount about geography of the United states from when we flew to California, he knows about counting coins to a dollar because he loves coins. He knows about black holes and meteors because he is obsessed with the Cosmos. In teaching him about the world we have tried to present him with all the awe-inspiring aspects of our amazing little planet. He loves life and all its intricacies, and it has all come from us....

Yes, science, math and reading are important but if they continue to be taught with few connection to their lives at this age. A great example is myself. I attended one of the best private school in NYC and went to a private collage, got all kinds of fancy degrees, yet there are very few moving moments in my education past. I very much remember the lessons where my hands were involved yet the facts that I memorized to get the wonderful grades I got are GONE!!! I had stored all this knowledge in my short term memory. I was a great test taker. I knew what was required of me and I remembered it for that short time.

No doubt he is learning in school, no doubt he will learn his letters and numbers soon. But will the learning be meaningful and retained long term?, or would he treat school like I did; just as something I had to do. My hopes for him would be that he would become inspired by his teachers to want to want to be a lover of investigation and want to know more....to see school as not just a purveyor of facts but as a place where he finds confidence in his own voice. The problem is not the schools, or the teachers, the issue is with the people above them and their priorities. Parents need to get into conversation with the ones who design schools and trust their own ideas and judgement.
I saw this life changing movie called The Principals" a few months back. It showed 2 principals who have done the impossible. They have gone into troubled inner-city schools and lifted the school. I believe this was not from just beating their heads with history facts. It became quite clear that these women were AMAZING and they carried with them so much genuine love for their school and their families. I hope to do that every day when I walk into the classroom. To bring life, and inspiration to a job that does not require that from me.....but if it were led by smarter people it would be......the drive to bring inspiration should be a HUGE part of the job description....


New Year's Resolutions 2010

So I need a place to place these and here seems the most appropriate.....I always love reading others' resolutions....and since my life is an open book, why not!

1. I resolve to be open about how you feel about things. Often, in the face of someone who may be more vocal my own feelings and opinions get lost in the loudness.

2. I resolve to play with my kids without TV, without the phone, without any distractions....

3. I resolve to allow my kids to lead when we play......stop telling them how to play.

4. I resolve to say yes more often and when possible when my kids ask me to start a project.

5. I resolve to assume the best out of most unknown and sketchy situations before jumping to the worse possible assumption.

6. Call home more often

7. Plan 2 trips with family way in advance so that we do not get caught in vacations and not having planned.

8. I resolve to appreciate my husband more.....he is amazing and too often I convince myself of the opposite.....when his deep love is all around me....too long to explain here....but, I know no man more devoted to his family. He reads books about playing, about education, about child rearing and he's constantly trying to be a better parent. He shops, he does all the laundry, he cooks, he gives amazing advice, he makes amazing conversation,......and lots, LOTS more...

9. I resolve to walk every weekday for 1/2 an hour.....

will post more later.....gotta go to work