Literature and Thinking

I love to read. I never have enough time to read all that I want to read. I am also not a “sitter.” I don’t sit easily and to read one must sit or lay or lounge. Well, maybe there are some people who can read standing up or in other positions. I can not. I would like to start writing about what I read and have read and forward brief comments about the books or stories. I hope others will share what they read or have read and what they have learned from their reading and write brief comments about it.

My current personal taste in reading is mainly historical fiction. I tend to love the big epic stories that revolve around significant historical events over multiple generations. I love to read multicultural tomes that are often historical. I tend to enjoy Hispanic and Latino literature. It may be because of my very early connection to Cuban Americans or it may be something deeper that I am not yet aware of. I love southern literature. The American south presents a wealth of outstanding writers. I am enamored by their use of language and their moving descriptions of the south; complex, entangled, sweeping descriptions of its beauty and its darkness. And, oh, their use of language, magnificent!

I previously taught English Language Arts so I have read many of the American and British classics. Maybe I should read them again or some of them. There is so much to read in this life so please join me on my journey and share what you read. I read adult literature, but not X rated so I am not interested in those titles. I mentioned before in one of my other blogs: keep it clean and valuable!

Recently read: This modern historical novel is both brutal and magnificent in its content. I did not know how the author was going to tie it all together in the end, but she did it exquisitely. She wrote this book when she was 26 years old!

Continue reading “Literature and Thinking”

via Daily Prompt: Infinite

I just taught this concept to 1st graders. I introduced this topic through a book titled: Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford. This is a “notable” book for children. The word “wonder” appears in the text. I introduce this text to begin a simple research process with the students. They will “wonder” about a topic of their own choosing and ask a question about it as a component of the WCPSS eWISE research model. Raring to go!


We celebrated her ninetieth birthday last October 30, 2016. She is my mom. The picture is of Vera cutting her birthday cake. It was a glorious Florida day! The brilliant afternoon sun cast the perfect light rays on the shimmering water. The wind lightly batted the flags against their metal stanchions, gently shaking the tree leaves in the park, rippling the water’s surface on the Indian river, stirring the sound and laughter of family and friends loving and sharing with each other. It was a wonderful party!

Vera is from Ireland and still speaks with a brogue. She is a petite, powerful woman. She has beautiful blue eyes that have been inherited by children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She has an interesting, personal life story that made her who she is and still drives her life to this day. Her career was nursing and it was a long one. She lives with her friend Tom. He is eighty nine years old.

What has she given me, instilled in me? What have I passed down of her to my own children? I will share this with  you now and in no particular order.

She has given me place!  It has crossed oceans and countries. I traveled, much as she did when she emigrated to America. I have lived in different places and experienced different people, languages, culture and identity and race. I am very proud of this because I enjoy the world and its people. They do not frighten me. I don’t think they ever did. It is just part of who I am because of her.

She has given me education! Her personal story did not include a lot of formal education. She placed great importance on education without suffocating me with it. I took my own path with its many twists and turns, formal and informal. My experiences with education were like hers, authentic and genuine. She gave me the sturdy foundation on which I built, explored and deepened my knowledge about many things. I tend to enjoy people who have similar intellects. They do not have to be degreed, accredited or lettered thinkers. I am a teacher and lifelong learner.

She has given me sun and warmth! She moved with my father to Miami before I was born and lived in the same house until just after he died.I was born in and grew up in Miami, Fl. It was a charmed childhood, not affluent, but innocent and free. I maneuvered around by myself at a very young age. I did not have to have watchers. I swam in the ocean and the pool. I rode my bike freely around our community and outside of it. I took the bus all over the city. I walked, ran, swam, jumped, danced, cycled, played tennis and more. I had a lot of friends. There lives were similar to mine, but I think I had a little more freedom to be mobile than they did. It created a deep sense of independence for me. Sun and warmth still make me feel the best ever!

She has given me strength! To be a great nurse requires a lot of strength, both physical and emotional and sensory control. I think my mom was a great nurse! I learned how to endure. I learned how to work. I learned how to have stamina and how to sustain myself. I learned how to value the most important things in my life: family, education, travel, experience and more recently connectedness. I learned how to have faith and hope and charity. I learned to be a good citizen.

She has given me courage! Vera had to demonstrate great courage to accomplish what she has in her life. She extended courage to others in her life. Family, friends and strangers alike. It takes courage to live everyday. The lows and highs of living are the norm for everyone. Life is immense joy and sorrow and everything in between. It is a matter of degree for each of us. I have not always handled myself in the best ways possible. Some people just seem to know what to do, how to handle life, how to successfully catch and throw the ball of life. This has been a challenge for me. The longer I live the more courageous I become. The more humility I demonstrate.

She has given me emotion! Now this is an understatement. Vera is a very emotional woman. Not always good, not always bad, but certainly a vortex of emotion. It overwhelmed me and confused me. It made me feel uneasy and unsure and often directionless. My emotions are very sensitive and I continue to under and overreact to stimuli, but I would not change it for the world because I have learned place, am educated, feel warmth, have strength, am courageous and I believe that I have passed on the best of these attributes to my children. So, I am content, happy and satisfied. Not always, but mostly.

For my mom, with love always and forever.



How Do We Empower Learners?

How do we empower learners in an institutionalized, educational structure? This is a hard question to answer and there are many answers to this question. In its dictionary meaning; “giving authority to,” one would assume that teachers and administrators simply give students the authority to learn as they wish and what they learn is acceptable for them in their continuum of education. In an institutionalized educational structure this is both true and false. The institution is a system and the learner and teacher must function within the confines of this system.

A child can not just say to a teacher or other authoritative figure, ” I want to leave campus and go to the river and observe and study the beavers and their lodges.” I will bring my device and record my questions and observations and return to school in three hours and explore what I have learned with my teacher and classmates. I say this because the first name of the school where I teach is “River.” Yes, it is very close to a real river and yes there are real beaver lodges on this river.

This idea may seem ridiculous or preposterous in our age of child proof safety and I totally agree on one level, safety. However, to simply bring children to the river and show them real beavers in their natural environment, who, by the way, are extremely interested in animals, practically takes an Act of Congress. The institution and system require enormous measures to take a child on a field trip (off campus), even if it is within walking distance from the campus. The institutionalization of education nearly eliminates serendipitous learning.

Learning, in a common education institution, must occur in the confines of the building or playground, within the walls of classrooms, directed by a teacher leader who is confined by a state and national curriculum and who must abide by a common method of managing all students they teach. The students are evaluated more on the teacher’s learning than their own learning.

Teachers are not free to tilt the learning environment to facilitate students self learning. So who suffers? The teacher definitely suffers because they are so limited in what they can do yet that self same institution wants them to “walk on water.” The children suffer because they are being coralled by the system and can only learn what is available to them in that context.

Yet, even on January 1st, 2017 many education professionals like and want these methods. They want others to follow and model these methods for the sake of the school (institution) not the learner.  To make any adjustments to this model, even minute, requires perception, courage, initiative and energy all the while perhaps having to accept the negative backlash from other colleagues and administrators.

I say, “do it anyway,” but begin slowly, strategically. Do not bring a lot of attention to yourself. After all, our students deserve all of the attention! Demonstrate success with the empowered learner model in careful, quiet ways. In the end, the students will be the ones who reveal they are empowered learners!

Thank You George Couros

I recently attended a conference where I heard George Couros speak. He so energized  and  inspired me to start a blog and write that I have finally taken this first step. Thanks George! I like to write although I rarely do it other than for academic purposes. When I write academically, I want to do it well, but I want to branch out with my writing.  I am passionate about my work on a personal, intellectual level, but I was feeling stifled, trapped, dismayed by the current state of my work environment.

I love story telling. I am becoming more involved with the power and substance of story and I want to explore my own stories and write them. I want to write the stories of other people as well. For example, one of my very young female colleagues recently traveled to Africa by herself, went on safari and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Who knew she did this on our faculty? I simply asked her if she did anything interesting during her track out as I welcomed her back and she was dropping her class off to my class. She mentioned this in passing to me and we have not had time to talk much about it, but I can only imagine how amazing and wonderful her story must be.

I read literature, mostly fiction and enjoy it very much. I can’t even imagine writing a book. Where does one begin? I believe I have had very interesting experiences and have learned the fantastic; not always happy or joyful, but incredible stories of my own and those of family, friends and acquaintances. So, I want to begin writing them.

I took a writing workshop once with Patricia Gouch, the instructor. She, at that time, was the president or vice president of Philomel Books. I loved her! She was very easy to work with and gave incredible advice. I wrote a story from my childhood. We had to write an experiential story of at least five pages in length and not much longer than that, although some of the other participants wrote longer pieces. She worked with us in small groups and she worked with us individually, helping edit our final piece. We then had to share them orally with the other participants. To a one, with her help, the stories were brilliant! They were hilarious, political, travel and very personal stories.

My young students write an experiential story for my class as one of their projects. They create a visual celebration of their stories and they present them to each other in class. I love this project and it is one of my favorites of the year. I watch them struggle, blossom, become very involved in their writing and I believe what they really learn through this whole project is a lot of confidence in themselves and their abilities. They have an adventure of self discovery that can not be assessed, criticized and they never fail in my class. I help them write, find their voice, search for information connected to their story and finally share it with others. It is a magnificent journey for me and I am so proud of them for completing their project. There is no grade you can attach to the complex and critical aspect of what they have learned for themselves and about each other and it gratifies me greatly.

So, I will begin to write on a regular basis. I know not all of the content I will write, but I will definitely write some of the stories etched in my memory and explore other events I experience. Join me on my journey as I begin to grow as a writer.

To George, thank you!