Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Yearning for the Biting Cold~ Easy to Say from Here


This week it has finally hit me. We do not live in Boston. We are here in Houston, Texas. It registered 112 degrees on my car thermometer today. 
As I struggled to get my groceries to my car without the ice cream melting in the parking lot, I seriously thought, “I would rather be walking in my clunky fur lined boots, barely able to grip the handle of the cart due to numbness from the biting cold. This week, I have cursed Houston's ugliness, it’s heat, and even it’s friendliness.  I miss Weston, Massachusetts. I miss my children’s schools, and all of the inspiration they gave to our family. I miss running with my friend Jenny on the hills, and feeling like I was making a new nature discovery at every turn.  I miss feeling in awe of my surroundings. I do not love Houston. I am not sure I ever have. But, I do love my friends and many of them live here. I love Mac’s new English teacher. She is thoughtful, kind, dramatic and passionate about teaching. Mac has already proclaimed her, “the best teacher I have ever had, besides Mrs. Mehta.” Mac has been quoting Shakespeare, writing poetry, and I believe that besides Rashna Mehta, this is the first teacher Mac has ever had who truly appreciates and recognizes her inner spirit.
I also love my house here in Houston. It is comfortable and beautiful and I will never have to shovel snow to get in and out of it. There is that. And there is the unbelievable convenience of living in a city like Houston…my Venti Green Iced Tea addiction has never been so satisfied.  I am starting my next class at Lesley University this week. It is called Emergent Technologies for Education. I already like my professor. One of the requirements for class is a sense of humor.  Now that, I can handle!



Friday, August 23, 2013

Good Morning!


Good Morning!
I sit here this morning back in Houston, Texas. I am sipping my green tea reflecting on the past week in Maine. Our summer is coming to a close and it is almost time for school to begin. I am thinking specifically this morning about how to harness my ideas, passion and enthusiasm into a neat bundle to present to  the school I am involved with...a girls or boys book group using technology to enhance learning, a diversity group for parents, a faculty support program that focuses on inspiration and refreshing the souls of the teachers so they can embrace 21st Century Learning with enthusiasm and energy. I would like to help the "behind the scenes" atmosphere at the school be a place where the faculty can replenish their strength and be joyful about their teaching. The school where my daughter, Cal went in Weston, MA had a positive invigorating academic atmosphere. I have never seen such a community of support and collaboration in a group of teachers. They are innovative and passionate about their day-to-day teaching and they are constantly looking for ways to improve their teaching practice.  
The head of the Lower School at Meadowbrook is a man named Gary McPhail. Gary is a thoughtful, kind and intelligent leader. He is approachable and well respected among the community. In one of Gary’s Blogs, he wrote about what he had learned fro an interview he had with a 5th grader: “Meadowbrook’s teachers and students embody the ideal of life-long learning, and as I write this I realize that Jack is not the only person who learns something new every day. One very important lesson that I have learned from Jack is that relationships matter here. Our emphasis on hard work and academic excellence is key, but authentic connections with children are just as meaningful. We know the importance of tapping into the "kid culture" in order to understand and support each child’s experience as we watch them take risks, stretch, grow and become the passionate people they are becoming. And I am so thankful that we work and learn in a community where the kids let us in!”
My favorite thing about Meadowbrook was the openness and transparency with the community. They use Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, email as well as face to face communication. I felt personally connected and listened to every time I spent time around Gary. 
The other wonderful thing Gary brings to Meadowbrook is a respect and attention to the need for children to spend time in nature and the outdoors. He decided that children who arrived at school early could run around and play in the morning on the basketball court and playground. During these mornings, the teachers stand visiting and sip their coffee, and the children interact. He said that the positive feedback from parents and teachers convinced him it was a good idea. The students who participated in that social time and exercise in the fresh air were ready to learn and happy and awake upon reaching their classrooms. I hope that I, like Gary, will be able to find a way to be a positive influence and support for my school here in Houston. 
Now, I shall go and sip my green tea and continue to prepare for the first day of school!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

REMIX-O-RAMA


Good Morning!
We have almost completed our online debate for Web 2.0 for Education. The debate was about whether Remix culture is a valuable and positive thing to add to the learning experience. When the assignment was first given, I was overwhelmed and I have to admit I was thinking I might be in over my head with all of this Technology in Education business. I also am willing to admit to my classmates and all who read my blog that I had a minor meltdown. The last time I remember having one of these types of meltdowns is at The University of Texas the night before my History of Japan final exam. There were so many foreign names to remember and so much material was being loaded into my brain, that I kind of freaked out. Briefly. However, I dug in and have always been quite proud to say I made a very good grade in the class (just in case you wanted to know that).  Today, after posting my rebuttal and citing my evidence in ARA format (whatever that is), listening to my fellow classmates’ arguments, and feeling part of such an interesting and exciting debate, I am feeling Olympic!

The other wonderful thing that happened this week using technology was a Skype conversation to Pakistan. My daughter’s brilliant teacher and friend, Rashna Mehta, has found her a pen pal in Karachi, Pakistan. Our families were able to meet via Skype and it was warm and full of good humor and joy. When we hung up, Mac and I marveled at the fact that we had just connected with people that far away. I recently read an article in the New York Times by Mark Vanhoenacker entitled Dear Emma… In it he writes, “A pen-pal friendship is pure, conjured serendipity." 

I am thrilled for Mac and her new friend Marium. I am thrilled for me that I have a dear friend who has brightened all of our lives. This year, since we are now able to have the perspective of viewing our time in the Northeast from down here in Texas, I will see clearly all of the things that are now part of my life that I would never have experienced or known if we had not spent the year living in New England. I will try very hard not to miss it too painfully, but enjoy all of the positive energy that we have gained from our adventure. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Long Walk to Water







My daughter and I have just finished reading an incredibly moving book. It is the story of Salva Dut, a Sudanese Lost Boy. He was one of the thousands of displaced boys who survived the Sudanese Civil War in 1985. He made his way to Rochester, NY and  became a United States Citizen. He now works to bring clean water to Sudan. A Long Walk to Water is the story of Salva’s journey and it is accompanied by the fictionalized story of Nya, a young girl living under very poor conditions whose basic daily routine revovles around her family’s search for water. They often have to dig the water out of very muddy holes.  I highly recommend reading this book with your class or your own children. Here is a National Geographic Water Calculator as well as a link to learn more about Salva and his incredible realized hope to quench the thirst of his people in the parched land of his Sudan. This book brought tears to my eyes.  
http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/change-the-course/water-footprint-calculator/

 http://video.pbs.org/video/1726685656/

 http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/