Friday, January 29, 2010

Most Important Day

I asked my middle school students to write an essay on the most important day in their lives. Some students wrote about their birthdays; others wrote about out of town trips. Boys wrote about sports events; girls wrote about meeting someone important. And so it went.

The most touching moment came when I read Clarissa’s paper. She told us the most important day of her life would be in the future when she graduated from high school. She said her father wanted her to graduate from high school because he had not been able to, and he wanted that experience for his daughter.

As I read her paper I could hear the young voice, “I want my father to be proud of me. I want to see his face as I walk across the stage. I know he will smile at me, and I shall smile at him. I’ll be thinking, ‘I did it, Daddy. I did it all for you.’”

As I read the last sentence my eyes released tears. Someone asked me, “Hey, Miss, are you crying?”

“No,” I answered. Perhaps I should have told the truth. The emotion I experienced in reading Clarissa’s paper touched me immensely. You see, I, too, was very close to my father, and I wanted him to be proud of me. When I read her paper, I realized I could have been that young girl many years before speaking the identical words.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bank Account

Being loved by someone is like having a bank account. You can place money in your bank account by showing love (kindness, good deeds) to your loved one, or you can withdraw money from your bank account by hurting the person you love. Only you know how to show love or hurt the other party.

If enough love is given the bank account grows and doubles and in a few year’s time, the account bulges, and both parties feel good about it. If, on the other hand, enough hurt is handed out, then the bank account dwindles until it becomes empty. Then no one benefits.

If only we had been more careful (thoughtful). If I had just not spent that last amount of money (last action taken) maybe we wouldn’t be in this fix. Maybe we would still be together. Maybe we could have even used the bank account for something from which the children would benefit (examples of love, respect). If only.

Have you checked your bank account lately? I know I need to get right on mine.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


In a warm climate tulips, we were told, have to be tricked into thinking that winter is occurring. Thus, in October you place the tulip bulbs in the refrigerator for about six weeks, keep them there and then take them out and plant them. They will think winter has occurred and after being planted, in a few weeks the bulbs will push their way up through the ground and give you beautiful tulips.

That is what we were told and that is what we did. Except for one year when we didn’t buy bulbs and store them in the refrigerator and then take them out and plant them. Three tulip plants appeared one day sprouting up through the soft soil like three green knife blades a few weeks after some very cold weather. All by themselves. With no help from us.

Hmmm. “Oh yea of little faith,” a bible verse came to mind. Like the robin, the established first sign of spring, the tulips reminded us that a new season was coming whether or not we prepared for it. New growth. New hope. New opportunities and people to meet and love. All we have to do is go out there and look for the signs of a new season.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Brass Chalice

A small brass chalice type receptacle. I found it on my mother’s shelf after she had passed away. I brought it home and placed it on my kitchen shelf. After writing a note and leaving it on the kitchen I worried the note might fly off the table. So I placed the small brass chalice on top of the note.

The note reached my son who would arrive home from school before anyone else. The next day I wrote a note when I left for my teaching job, and, again, placed the brass receptacle on the note on the table. In time, like Pavlov’s dog, we all became trained and knew the brass chalice meant a note or a message for someone in the family.

And so we look for patterns in everyday living. If it happens a few times, then it will happen many times and you can expect it to happen perhaps forever. The mailman’s arrival can be a pattern. If he comes at 9:30 A.M for several mornings, it is probable he will come for months, perhaps years at the very same time.

Patterns are our guideposts, the things we look for when we try to make sense of what we are actually observing. And then we say, “Ah, there it is. Now I know what is going to happen next.” And that understanding brings us comfort.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


What does it take for a child to succeed in school? That seems to be in the newspaper often. People shake their heads and everyone wonders. Well, it takes a lot of things.

This is the picture that comes to my mind. A teacher leads-she has the knowledge and skills-the student moves himself along by working on his lessons and using his head and the parent is pushing, prodding, and encouraging the child/student. It is definitely a formula in which three parties are contributing to the success of a student. That is the general idea.

Now what does it take for the child to learn? Any new learning must connect to knowledge that is already there in the child’s brain or experiences, sort of like adding a link to a chain. I asked the students one day…How many of you have seen a car going down the street and the tires are shaking, sort of moving from side to side because they are not straight? (hands go up-I have. Me, too.)

Then how many of you have seen commercials in which the announcer says, “If you need your tires aligned, bring in your cars and we can align your tires for you.”
(hands go up-I’ve heard that. I saw that commercial.) I write align on the blackboard.

Align your tires means to make them straight so that if I say let’s align your desks that means to put them in straight rows. Understand? Like-in-a-line.

Today I am going to ask you to align your decimals in these math problems. What am I asking you to do? (Put the decimals in a straight line.)

That is right. If we are to work with decimals, they must always be aligned or placed in a straight line. Then and only then can we work a problem successfully.
(We went from the known-tires that shake-to the unknown-the term align.)

Teaching children using ideas or concepts with which they are familiar is another method of engaging them so you can teach them.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Proud to be an American

We were at a large conference in Costa Rica with over 600 persons in attendance representing countries from Central and South America and the USA and it was our turn to sing a song which exemplified our feelings toward our country. Members of each of the countries involved in the ceremony were to do the same, sing about their respective countries.

We Americans stood up in our red, white, and blue outfits and sang Lee Greenwood’s song, “I’m Proud to be an American.” Naturally my eyes became moist as they usually do when I sing a patriotic song.

I thought as I sang…I am singing with my fellow Americans but I am also singing among my cousins or sisters because my parents were immigrants from Mexico and the Central and South American women have Spanish and Indigenous ancestors as I do.

I heard and saw the women from the various countries in Central and South America as they, too, sang proudly and with emotion. We had some differences among the countries, but I couldn’t help but feel, we were so alike.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010



Someone said, “A person is the sum total of his experiences.” And those experiences determine how an individual perceives the world around him or her. A perfect example of this were the answers we gave my three year old grandson while reading a story to him.

First the backgrounds
Mine: I had a bench stolen from my front porch. Also, I have had folks steal other things from me in a variety of situations. Now I am more careful with what I do and where I place things.

My daughter's: My husband always told the children to do their best in school because of the bad economy. Economy was not an isolated word to him. Bad economy were two words that went together, no doubt about it. The children were well familiar with the term BAD ECONOMY.

My son-in-law’s: He works with companies that invest money. Investments are his middle name.

And now my grandson and the story he wanted us to read to him nightly, “The Beauty and the Beast”. We took turns reading the story to him and every time we came to a certain point he asked the same question. The story went something like this: There was once a very rich merchant with a beautiful daughter…The merchant suddenly lost all his money.
When I read the part of the merchant losing his money, my grandson’s reaction: Whyyyyyyyyy?
My answer: Someone stole it.

The next night my daughter read the story and when she read the part of the merchant losing his money, my grandson asked the same question: Whyyyyyyyyyyy?
My daughter’s answer: Bad economy.

The third night my son-in-law read the story and when he came to the part where he read the merchant lost his money my grandson asked the same question: Whyyyyyyyyy?
My son in law’s answer: Bad investments.

So you see the truth of anything lies somewhere in our answers, but our answers are all based on our perceptions or on our own experiences. I guess we have to draw our own conclusions, again, based on our thinking.