Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pay It Forward
Of all the things that I would most like to teach my students, it is the idea of how to make a difference in the life of someone else by serving.
I recently heard Abdi's story and his very clearly explains what it eans to "pay it forward".  He came to the US as a Somali refugee at age 17 and after spending a short time in California, he found out that in Minnesota, you can stay in high school until age 21.  He moved here and, athough he knew little to no English when he arrived in the US, he was able to graduate from high school and go on to college at the University of Minnesota.  Homework Help, a program run by the Hennepin County libraries, made a huge difference in his success story because there he found caring volunteer tutors to assist him in his studies.  Now, Abdi pays it forward - he is now in charge of this program and is the one to make sure that others like him find the help they need to continue their studies.
Hennepin County Library Homework Help
What does it mean to you to pay it forward?  For me it means many things:  sending a homemade card to a shut-in; providing a meal to new parents or to my elderly parents; sharing my gift of music on Sunday mornings at my church and so on.
For my students, it begins with smiling and greeting each other in the morning and listening respectfully when others are speaking.  And from that point on, the sky's the limit!

Monday, January 7, 2013

What are you reading?
I always try to encourage my students to read, read, read and I try to be a good model for that.  I share with them the books I am reading, comment on my favorite authors or illustrators and talk about the books that I enjoyed when I was younger.  I am a voracious reader and believe that reading opens windows to our world when we are not able to hop into a car or onto a plane or a train for a fun adventure.
Since it is the season of new resolutions, I have decided to join with some fellow bloggers from my church and try to read the entire Bible in a year.  I have Bible study software from Christmas last year (a gift to myself!) and am looking into daily reading plans.

Here is a link to one that looks pretty good:
Who's in?!  
Let me know with a comment what you are reading 
or if you are planning to read through the Bible in 2013.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why study abroad?
According to an article by Gail Rosenblum published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune11 months ago, fewer and fewer high school students in the US participate in study abroad programs.  In fact, during the same year (2009 - 2010), US students studying abroad totaled just under 2000 compared to more than 28,000 exchange students around the world who came to the US to study.

In Dreaming in French, Author Alice Kaplan writes about three important American women, Jackie Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis, who chose to study in France as young adults and who were profoundly changed by their experience. In Kaplan's conclusion, she states that the year that these three women spent in Paris "gave each of these women a deep and lasting confidence confirmed their spirit of adventure and guaranteed their freedom from home constraints." Kaplan, a professor of French at Yale University, captures her own study abroad experience in French Lessons: A Memoir.

In my own experience, my semester abroad in Nantes, France in 1982 was a time I will never forget for so many reasons.  I stayed with a dear family with whom I remain close today and to whom I pay visits each time I travel to France.  This family is truly my French family.  I began to refine my skills in French to a level I would not have otherwise attained had I chose to stay in the US to study.  And, like the women in Dreaming in French, my experience confirmed in me that "spirit of adventure" that lead me to live in Cairo, Kuwait and back to France where I set up house in the 11th arrondissement in Paris.  During my time in Paris, I traveled throughout Europe and even back to the continent of Africa with my now ex-husband, a pilot.

So, to get back to my original question, "Why study abroad?"  Study abroad is an opportunity that should be embraced whenever it is offered - at the fifth grade as it is in the school where I teach, in high school or in college.  The young person who is able to take advantage of this experience will have a rich experience to draw from as he or she continues as a student and down life's twisting, turning paths.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


With Election Day today, it was time to reflect on what it means to be able to live in a free country.  I spent a few moments this afternoon talking with my second graders about Election Day and that they could participate in a mock vote in their community.  It is hard to express all that this freedom really means to 7 and 8 year-olds who, like many, seem to to take so much for granted.

At last month's Friends of the Hennepin County Library Penpals lecture, Salmon Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses (1988), spoke of one aspect of this great gift of freedom as an author -- the freedom of speech.  The publication of this his fourth novel of his, brought about the issuance of a fatwa by the Ayatollah Khomeini, demanding his capture and execution.  Rushdie then went into hiding for over a decade and threats and acts of violence followed in numerous countries, including public book-burnings, and assassinations and attacks on individuals involved in the selling, translating and publication of the novel.  His new memoir,  
Joseph Anton, gives a detailed account of his years in hiding under police protection.

Recently, in Atlanta, Rushdie spoke of how he is pleased that this novel is now being recognized for its worth as a piece of literature rather than for the scandal it has caused worldwide.
November 6th Atlanta Press Club Talk

Indeed, it is a wonderful thing to live in a country where you are free to speak, write, create and vote for your governmental leaders.  I hope that I can help educate the next generation of citizens to value and uphold these freedoms in whichever country they eventually call home.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Vendredi: Mission accomplie!

Nous avons un beau ciel bleu. Nous avons fini le travail que nous avions devant nous cette semaine. La fondation pour l’école Delmas 33 est faite et les cadeaux des élèves ont été placés dans les mains de nos amis de Lougou. Journée à la plage aujourd'hui!
We have a beautiful blue sky.  We have finished the work we had before us this week.  The foundation for the Delmas 33 school is complete and the gifts from the Normandale 3rd graders have been placed in the hands of our Lougou friends.  Beach day today!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pernier - Ecole Maranatha

Mercredi/jeudi Nous sommes deux équipes ici ches les missionaires Bill et Dorothy Smith: l'équipe du Minnesota (10 personnes) et l 'équipe du Tennessee (6 personnes). La plupart de nous travaillons sur le site de construction mais comme certains de nous sont tres intéressés à voir les écoles, nous avons choisi, Josh (Pasteur pour enfant a son eglise au Tennessee) et moi, d'aller aider Pasteur Obed et son assistante Anise dans une école un plus éloigné de Port-au-Prince dans un village qui s'appelle Pernier. Beaucoup des élèves de cette école sont parrainés par Latin America Child Care alors il y avait beaucoup à faire pour les aider aujourd'hui: photos de chaque enfant plus 2 projets d'écriture par enfant à faire. Avant de partir, Josh a pris une petite dans ses bras en disant qu'il allait partir avec elle. Elle était si mignonne - je pensais la même chose! Demain nous allons retourner pour finir le travail. Les gens de Lougou vont aussi venir chercher les impermeables et les lampes de poches en debut d'après-midi. Wednesday/Thursday There are 2 teams here staying with missionaries Bill and Dorothy Smith: the Minnesota team (10 people) and the Tennessee team (6 people). Most of us have been working on the construction site but since some of us have been very interested in seeing the schools, Josh (Children' pastor at his church in Tennessee) and I chose to help Pastor Obed and his assistant Anise in a school abut farther away from Port-au-Prince in a village named Pernier. A lot of the students in this school are sponsored through Latin America Child Care so there is a lot to do today: photos of each child plus two writing projects for each child to do. Before leaving the school, Josh took a little girl in his arms saying that he was going to leave with her. She was so cute - I was thinking the same thing! Today (Thursday), we will return to finish this work. The Lougou people will also be coming to pick up the raincoats and flashllights in the early afternoon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Delmas 33a : Aujourd'hui, toute l'équipe a travaillé ensemble. Nous avons continué à poser la base en ciment pour l'école. A côté de notre champs de travail, quatre classes étaient en cours en pleine vue de tout. Comment pouvaient-ils se concentrer sur leurs leçons?! Les enfants étaient très affectueux. Nous avons distribué des robes à toutes les petites filles et à peu près 40 paires de shorts aux garçons (faits par les femmes de l'église de l'équipe de Tennessee qui travaille avec nous). J'ai aussi aidé Pasteur Obed et Anise avec les enfants qui faisaient des dessins pour leurs parrains. J'ai fait de nouveaux amis - en particulier, une petite qui ne voulait pas me lâcher!

Delmas 33 construction site

Today, the whole teamed worked together.  We continued to lay a cement foundation for the school.  Next to our work site, four classes were carrying on in full view of everything.  How were they able to concentrate on their lessons?!  The children were very affectionate.  We distributed dresses to all the little girls in the school as well as about 40 paires of shorts to the boys (made by the ladies from the church of the Tennessee team working with us).  I also helped Pastor Obed and Anise who were working with the children who were doing drawings for their sponsors.  I made some new friends - in particular, one little girl who did not want to let me go!