The Clock is Ticking…

H  ow did the holidays get here so fast?

A  few weeks ago we were eating turkey

P  retty soon the stores were filled with Christmas

P  iles of gift catalogs throughout the house

Y  esterday we hung the lights outside

 

H  ow will we ever be ready in time for Christmas?

O  n December 17th we are leaving for Germany

L  ots of things to prepare for our trip

I   f only the next few days would slow down

D  estinations: Berlin, Dresden, Weimar

A  lot of miles to travel to see people we love

Y  es, it’s the trip of a lifetime

S  ee you in 2016!

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Teaching and Terrorism

Emotions and thoughts have been swirling through my mind since I heard about the acts of terrorism in Paris this past weekend. Paris is a city I love dearly, having lived there for over a year in the 70’s in my mid-twenties and returning many times to visit.

I first began reading about the banlieues (outskirts or suburbs) of Paris about a decade ago. This was not the Paris I first experienced. It had become a city of haves and have nots, with the native insiders living within the city and the outsiders/immigrants relegated to substandard lives on the outskirts of the city. These outsiders burned cars and trashed their neighborhoods as a way of expressing their frustration and anger.  Eventually things returned to the status quo and their frustration was forgotten.

This past year the news of the violence that took place at Charlie Hebdo, the French newspaper whose cartoons mocked the Muslim extremists, reminded us of that anger. The lives of several French cartoonists and journalists were taken in another outburst of hatred toward French culture. The world responded with sympathy (“I am Charlie Hebdo”) and a renewed vow to celebrate “free speech.”

But this past weekend’s events, in which local terrorists took the lives of over 100 Parisians, remind us again that this hatred is not dead. More extreme and widespread violence has just begun, and we are now wondering what to do next to contain or combat extremists throughout the world.

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This is where teaching comes into the discussion. I am so proud of my profession; moreso than ever. In the United States teachers are the ambassadors of plurality, seeking to find ways to assimilate and educate our newcomers as they arrive at our borders and in our airports.

This is not to say that all teachers welcome undocumented immigrants and their families; prejudice and scorn often rear their heads in faculty lunchrooms. But even those who do not appreciate our tolerance for immigrants understand that our nation was built on their efforts and continues to flourish in many ways because of them. They also understand that building a wall is not the best way to solve the immigrant dilemma.  Supporting the assimilation of immigrant children and their families into our culture is how our nation will continue to sustain its principles of freedom and equality.

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I have often questioned my own beliefs as a teacher of English to immigrant students over the past several decades. But I have always come to the conclusion that becoming more understanding of people from other cultures, while helping their children to become better educated and assimilated, is the only way to continue to build a foundation of trust and strength.

I am particularly proud of my fellow English as a Second Language teachers.  We are often not held in high regard in our own schools or communities because of the controversial work we do, but we are the best advocates in our educational system for making sure that all children have equal access to a good education. Education is terrorism’s worst enemy and the best weapon we have for preserving our values.

This Is the Story of a Newborn in a Bar!

I suddenly realized that I haven’t blogged in several few weeks. It’s completely unlike me to do that since I’ve been blogging regularly for about four years. But here’s the thing…I have a new grandchild! So this post was actually written a week or two ago, but here goes…

Wynona Jane is about three weeks old now but had a difficult entry to this world. Her Mom and Dad went to great lengths to create her and she will most likely be my one and only grandchild. So, of course, I adore her.

She lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn so I don’t get to see her very often. In fact, this weekend will be only my second visit with her. When she was in the hospital I didn’t get to see her or hold her because she was briefly in the NICU so I don’t count that as a visit…just a viewing. She’s home and fine now and keeping her parents awake all night.

I started a “grandma journal” in which I plan to write about fun things to share with her. My first and so far only entry was about our first official visit with her two weekends ago when we all took a walk with her in her stroller around the notorious Gowanus Canal neighborhood. Formerly one of the most toxic supersites in the country, the neighborhood is now undergoing the rampant cleanup and development that is happening in many cities. I told Wynona the story of how we visited a local restaurant for Easter dinner and as soon as we arrived she started crying.

My daughter-in-law became nervous and was thinking about leaving the restaurant when my son said: “I’ll take care of her.” He scooped her up into his arms and brought her to the bar area so we could order our dinners. When I next looked up, he was sitting at the bar with her in one arm, feeding her, while sipping a martini and chatting with the bartender!

I hope Wynona will enjoy this first family story. I no longer have any doubts that this child is in good hands!

 

Helping English Language Learners Discover Their ‘Voices’ Through Authentic Experiences

Acquiring a ‘voice’ in a new language is essential for English as a New Language (ENL) learners; without one they don’t exist. Our job as their teachers is to make sure that doesn’t happen by giving them every possible opportunity to cultivate, celebrate and use their new voices inside and outside our classrooms.

What about our ‘new arrivals’ who don’t yet have a voice, but urgently need one? How can classroom teachers best help them to discover their unique voices?

Shift the Instructional Focus to
Facilitating Self Expression

When I first began teaching ENL learners, I attempted to make my students feel more comfortable by learning a few words in their native language; by assigning them a ‘buddy’ who could help translate when necessary; by supporting and celebrating each step of their language acquisition process with appropriate lessons. My instructional goal was to facilitate language learning, assimilation to our culture and progress in our curriculum.

But is this how we learn our first language? Think about when you were a baby and your parents and siblings modeled first one word at a time, then short phrases, then longer phrases and questions. They encouraged every attempt at speech you made, and instead of correcting you, they modeled the correct word or phrase repeatedly. There was constant interaction and encouragement. It should not be surprising, therefore, that ENL students of all ages learn English best through authentic, interactive experiences.

Provide Authentic Opportunities for Developing ‘Voices’

Without regular, incrementally challenging opportunities to express themselves in a supportive environment, ENL students lose confidence, and ultimately their unique voice. Here are some examples of how to encourage your ENL students to build confidence:

      •  Encourage and support their participation in sports events and all other school events and clubs. ENL students often feel like outsiders and lack confidence to join new groups.
      •  Support their efforts to write and illustrate journals, poems and books to share how they experience the world by providing them with ‘mentor texts’ they can imitate. For ENL students, imitation is not a crutch; it is a tool.
      •  Encourage them to ‘step up” their language expression. For example, I am presently coaching a group of ENL high school students, (with ‘developing and expanding’ English language skills), to recite some lines from Walt Whitman that they have rewritten at an upcoming Whitman Bicentennial Festival. Speaking in public is tremendously challenging For ENL students, but results in a huge sense of achievement and belonging.

 

https://barbarasut.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/helping-english-language-learners-discover-their-voices-through-authentic-experiences/

 

Caution: Entering the Grandma Zone!

Is it really Tuesday already? Time seems to be moving at warp speed. The long awaited birth of my first (and probably only) grandchild is finally happening, about ten days early. Some blood test results indicated the need for inducing labor to avoid complications. The baby was declared “full term” by the doctor, so it’s on to the various magic tricks that obstetricians now use to bring a baby into the world.

We last heard at 10 pm last night that our daughter-in-law was having small contractions. Woke up at 8:30 am but still no news. Finally heard from my son at 10:30 am that the delivery is not happening as quickly as hoped, so they are now doing some of those “tricks” I mentioned earlier. Let’s hope it all works…soon!

My mind is periodically flooding with images of birthing rooms, hospitals, nurseries, doctors and everything that goes into bringing a new baby into this world nowadays. I keep thinking about women who don’t have help with these matters and who must suffer more. How terrified they must be when there are complications.

I’m keeping it brief today because there’s too much else competing in my mind for attention. By the way, we don’t know the sex, by choice. Stay tuned!

Wonderful Ways to Love A Grandchild
Grandchildren are God’s helpmates
in charge of softening our hearts
and opening our eyes and ears’
to the simple sights and sounds
that bring us joy.
Grandparents are in charge of
gentle loving and forgiveness,
for persevering and strengthening
the heart connection in your family.
– By Judy Ford

http://grandparentsday.fundootimes.com/poems/first-time-gp-poems.html

And So It Begins….Signs of Spring

As I am waiting for my first grandchild in a few weeks, I guess it’s not surprising I am interested in new birth in nature. I took a walk in my favorite park today and guess what? I had just been wondering whether any of the birds who live there had yet built a nest. Sure enough, no sooner did the idea pop into my head, than I came upon a Canada Goose nest. I know it’s hard to get excited about a goose nest, but our swan lost its mate last year, so sadly the annual swan nest is empty. Besides, the goose actually looked so lovely on her nest with her mate protecting her nearby.

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I decided to collect a few more photos of signs of spring.  Spring starts very slowly here in the northeast. In fact, signs of spring are downright tiny in this neck of the woods. Since my retirement, I miss taking my class of English Language Learners for a Signs of Spring walk, so I’m sharing my finds with you instead.

The tulip sprouts have already pushed through the ice and snow and are now several inches tall. I can’t wait for their bloom in May when the park is literally covered with them.

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A real find…a pussy willow in bloom.  Rare in this neck of the woods.

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Kids playing in the playground. What could say Spring better than that! Although it’s a brisk, windy day they no longer want to stay indoors. Their energy is energizing.

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A cluster of crocuses decided to spring up in our yard. Our lawn was recently destroyed to put in a new cesspool. So good to see them persevere.

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Once it arrives, Spring happens quickly in the northeast.  The next time I take pictures I’m sure everything will look entirely different. Stay tuned. What are the sure signs of Spring in your neighborhood?

The March Challenge Is “A Small Rebellion Against the Quickening of Time”

(Above photo: The Oculus in the Roman Pantheon was a place of contemplation for me.  https://romeonsegway.com/10-facts-about-the-pantheon/)

Two days ago on the Op Ed editorial page of the NY Times (March 29) I read a very uplifting column by David Brooks entitled “Longing for an Internet Cleanse.” It was so  relevant to everyone in this writing community that I urge everyone  to find it and read it.

In his editorial, Brooks writes of the need for each of us to slow down and honor the “step into a slower dimension of time.” Eureka! I realized that is exactly what we do when we write our Slices.  Time and time again during this month’s March Challenge I have read posts about how the writer had to make the time or take the time away from an overly crowded life in order to be able to participate in this unique writing community. ‘Tho the pace is hectic during the March Challenge, most of us do make or take the time to write. So why do we do this?

I believe it’s because we each have a deep craving to connect, to communicate, to “consider” our daily lives in ways we don’t normally take the time to do. And we equally wish to share our deep reflection with others who are doing the same. We take a time out from our hectic pace to celebrate why we are here on this earth and to reflect upon how we are spending our time while we are here.

Brooks speak of a Japanese artist, Makoto Fujimura, who has incorporated the slowing down of time into his work. For his paintings, Mako has adopted a technique that is very time consuming and meticulous, but results in very richly layered images with deep dimension. “Nohinga is slow to make and slow to see.”

He also speaks of the Greek concept of Kairos time. “When you’re with beauty, in art or in nature, you tend to move at Kairos time–slowly, serenely but thickly.”

He refers to the Sabbath, the day of rest in many religions, as endowed “with a felicity which enraptures the soul, which glides into our thoughts with a healing sympathy. It is a day on which hours do not oust one another. It is a day that can soothe all sadness away. No one, even the unlearned, crude man, can remain insensitive to its beauty.” I am not a religious person, but I certainly appreciate the restorativeness of a day of rest.

I am deeply grateful to the staff of Two Writing Teachers who continue to hold this space for us on a weekly basis (monthly in the case of the March Challenge), enabling us to  step away from the madness of our lives, into the space of contemplation and creativity which we all seek and share.

Farewell to the March Challenge, Hello to New Beginnings!

M arch has come and gone like lightening

A nd yet I’ve managed to write each day

R eflecting on my month overall…

C an it be true that I mostly posted late in the day?

H ow did that happen and why?

 

C areful consideration leads me to believe

H ad I done my writing earlier each day

A nd posted at a reasonable morning hour

L ots more comments would have followed.

L ate is better than never but not by much

E very post I read I enjoyed

N ext year I’ll try to be more disciplined

G oodbye for now to all you stalwart writers

E ndings lead to new beginnings. Enjoy them all!

I. Am. Not. Losing. Weight.

(Above photo: https://coachwolfy.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/the-struggle-is-real/)

After three months on an online weight loss plan that I thought would help me reverse the weight gain I’ve carried now for three decades, I am ready to quit. Sound familiar, mostly to the women in this writing community? Men suffer, too, but the preponderance of people hoping to lose weight appears to be women.

I had high hopes for this online program, albeit I knew very little about it when I started. The person directing the program is extremely likable and knowledgeable and I’ve interacted with him half a dozen times through a personal phone call and group calls. I had connected with the program after a serious bout of SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) that caused extreme bloat and discomfort. I even had to take a bizarre breath test to determine what type of toxic gas I was brewing in my tummy.

When I went to see my gastrointestinal doctor he was ready to put me back on strong meds. I balked. I had learned that these meds, although they do work, have side effects I could no longer live with….namely polyps in my colon and esophagus. These can be precancerous, and I’ve already had cancer. So, no thank you to the meds.

I had the good fortune to connect with the Low Fodmap Diet and my current coach. It would take to long to explain what Low Fodmap means and the biological reasons why this diet works for SIBO, but it did work for me. Within a couple weeks I saw and felt drastic improvement. So no wonder I should feel hopeful about starting the weight plan associated with the Low Fodmap Diet and with this person who was responsible for showing me a healthy way to a cure.

Despite the fact that I am keeping mostly within the caloric range I’ve been assigned, exercising more frequently than I had been doing during the winter, and tracking (mostly) the food I’ve been eating, I keep bouncing around in the same range of two to three pounds that I gain, lose, gain, lose. My guru has suggested various modifications: drink more water, eat more protein, weigh only once a week, etc. But I’m just not getting there.

My dilemma: Should I stop and find another plan? There’s a local person my friend is using and she is successfully losing weight. Perhaps I need to see my coach in person once a week/ or month. Should I keep it up on the premise some have suggested that it took a long time to gain this weight, so it will take a long time to lose it? I don’t exactly feel like a failure since I am exercising more and feeling better, but my resistance to losing weight is getting me down.

Your thoughts?