One of my wonderful students sent me an email yesterday morning, here it is:

Hi Senora B.
Have you ever heard of Kiva. If not Kiva is a cite where you lend money to buisnesses. My aunt gave me 50 dollars to spend on Kiva for my birthday. You get the money back when the entrapanuer (that is probably not how to spell it) pays you back. I donated half of my money to a person in Peru. I wanted to share this with you because it mentions the currency in her own summary of why she needs the money. I thought you might be interested.


Now, truth be told, I had used Kiva once over the holidays to donate (as a gift) on behalf of my mother-in-law.  I never thought to mention this site to my students or that they might mention it to me.  How amazing is this child that I get to teach?

Kiva was talked about on Oprah (which is the only reason I was aware of it) but I am just absolutely in AWE of my young student who is aware enough and loving enough to seek and reach out to others on her own.  Below is the woman that my student chose to donate to.  We have just begun to earn Peruvian Soles this trimester for class participation (we change currencies every trimester and learn about the country) and are about to learn a bit about the Peru tomorrow in class. I don’t know why this darling student chose to donate to this Peruvian woman, but she inspired me to do the same!  And what a CHANGE this little bit might make in this woman’s life and my own!

And here is a bit about the woman that my student and I donated to:

Elena is a member of the Virgen de Lujan Communal Bank. It is located in the Tinicachi district, Yunguyo province, Puno department. Elena is 48 years old, single, and has two children (one is independent). She has a first grade education.

She has been working with the Movimiento Manuela Ramos for six years. Her first loan was for 300 soles, and she invested it in her business. She sells handmade items and domestic animals.

She will use the requested loan of 3,000 soles to buy 20 pieces of woven cloth, a pig, and a sheep. She also says that she farms. She grows potatoes, beans, corn, and oats. She works alone.

Her dream is to grow her business. She likes the meetings and the punctuality.


DONATE!  Elena has almost reached her goal!


This is a QUICK POST…just something that was so noteworthy!

On Friday, one of my students was traveling to Connecticut.  She told me that she was not going to be here in class and asked if we would Skype her in to class because she said she would be at the hotel with her parents during our Spanish time.  I, of course, said SURE that we would Skype her in and sit her at her table where she usually sits.  So on Friday I was using a great website that Lauren Rosen introduced me to called Poll Everywhere.  It allows you to take a poll and text in your results and you can watch it real time on the Smart Board as the answers come in.

I use it with my 8th graders because I really need to change things up and do different things to keep them interested after listening to me teach them Spanish for NINE years and (they truly do not really enjoy much of anything in class because they are so ready to get outta this school where they have almost all been for NINE years) usually using their mobile phones in class MIGHT keep them a bit interested.  So they were texting in their answers to a book activity we had done and it seemed to keep them interested….meanwhile one of my students was receiving text updates from the student who wanted to be Skyped in from Connecticut.  She was not able to get her lap top working or something or Skype not working so she asked if they could use FACE TIME on their iPhone 4 (yes, both of my 8th grade students happen to have iPhone 4s).  So they go on FACE TIME and she was able to be in class with her parents in the background attempting to speak Spanish.  Her parents were so funny speaking Spanish and coming in and out of the video…it was so great!  My students are so wonderful that they made this happen!  I had nothing to do with it!  I wish I had video of it to share.  I have a 3GS and have been wondering if I need to spend the money to get a 4…..I am now convinced that YES.  I want one!

Skype call to Mexico

My 6th graders had their first Skype call to Mexico.  We spoke with a school in Mexico City called Jules Verne School.  It seems like such an interesting school.  They are learning English of course and we are learning Spanish.  It is grade preschool-7th grade I believe so that match couldn’t have been any more perfect!  My school is K-8.  I cannot wait to speak with them again with different age groups!

My 6th graders have spoken to an English teacher Greta Sandler in Argentina earlier this school year and they have been so excited to talk to other students!  We finally got to do this last Tuesday.  It was fun to watch the Mexican 6th grade students!  They were so excited and all huddled in front of the screen.  Some of my students were actually freaked out and being SHY.  I could not believe it.  I had to really coax them into introducing themselves.

I made this connection on Twitter and am so grateful for Mayus Chavez.  She is the principal at Jules Verne School and so open-minded and willing to really give this Skype thing a TRY!  Because that is what all of this 21st Century learning tools are….a TRY.  You have to give it all a try and try again until you find what works.  The call did not go perfectly of course, but what ever does?  🙂  It was such a great experience and this is going to be such a wonderful experience for our students!  Enjoy the video!


India and my friend Megan

My goodness-seeking, service-oriented, creative, beautiful friend Megan is in India. I’m not sure if India is a place I’d ever be brave enough to experience, but my Megan is there now. This is an email that she just sent yesterday that I am copying and pasting from my iPhone on my Word Press app. Amazing. I am sitting in my husband’s truck waiting for him in small town Champion, MI in the UP. It is still a beautiful winter wonderland here and I am blogging from the truck. Nice. Love technology. Love love love it.

Megan’s new work is a powerful want to make a difference in the lives of those less-fortunate and her way with words has always been powerful. Here they are! Enjoy!
I thought this email was packed with so many wonderful things to share with anyone and everyone. So here it is. I hope you get as much out of it as I did.


Hello from India. I’m in India. I say this repeatedly, often, in my head. For so long India was just an idea in my imagination… and to see it before me, to be in the middle of it, it’s a bit surreal. I see things familiar, and I think, “this is India!” And I see a lot of people, crowds, cars every which way moving in traffic (crossing the street had never been such a challenge…. I did feel like the proverbial chicken), and monkeys and cows and pigs in the street, and I think, “this in India.”

It’s quite a sensory experience.

The one place I’d say the sensory experience has been lacking a bit is via my taste buds. I’ve tried some of the food, but mind you, we’ve been in many rural, very poor areas. Street food at times is the only option. And it just seems like its stomach trouble on a plate. So I have been cautious with food, meaning I’ve had my fill of peanut butter and nuts for a while. And have been getting my carb fill, too: nan bread, lots of rice. Really looking forward to some raw veggies when I get home!

Speaking of (not) raw veggies, me, Rachel (the director) and Dom (the sound guy) were all unwinding in our unheated hotel room, up in the Himalayas. It was pretty chilly. We dined on some sort of packaged creme cookies, pistachios (from Trader Joes, I brought those from home), and potato chips. And beer. We went to bed, awoke the next day. Half a box of cookies still on the table. The door was left ajar for a slight moment, as we had been walking in and out of our hotel room… and as I walked back toward the room, and Rachel had been in there, she walked out to see a monkey run in, grab the cookies, and then proceed to run (fly) past me, up onto the hotel roof. Then it sat at the edge of the roof, looked at me, and started to eat the cookies.

“Ah, don’t keep your door open!” the hotel staff then informed.

We filmed on the terrace of the hotel shortly thereafter, and from above, an empty water bottle had been chucked at the camera. Same monkey. Perhaps he didn’t like the cookies.

So yes, it’s a bit of a zoo here, at times.

I am writing from the seventh hotel on our trip… have two more different hotels after this, in two different cities. We’ve been hopping all around, go-go-going. I’m a bit tired, but it’s all been really great. Truly.

Let me update about the project. On that front, in regards to covering the story about microfinance to women, we’ve really had some EXCELLENT interviews. With AMAZING leaders. And have captured just some INCREDIBLE footage.

We did go to the site where a lot of people (to be more specific… thousands) bathe in the Ganges. I didn’t realize that’s where we were going until we got there. Funny, too, that the night before, as I imagined this serene spot along the Ganges, up in the Himalayas, that I thought we were going to, I said aloud, “Perhaps I’ll take a dip, too”, as the man we were following (known here as the Bill Gates of microfinance in India, his name is Vijay Mahajan) he was to take a swim, and we were to film it. Well we arrive in the morning, and Hello thousands of people. I had seen pictures, but didn’t realize that THAT was where we were going. HOLY COW (I say this with a new appreciation in India). Really, WOW. Thousands of people. Men washing. Women washing each other. A woman dunks her naked baby three times in the frigid, rapidly running water. I didn’t go in.

I’ve included a set of pictures, linked below. The man in the orange get-up, that was taken alongside the ganges, as thousands bathed.

Lots of barefooted people here. Yes, lots of people here are poor. Very poor.

I’ll write more on that later.

As for our project…

So we traveled through the Himalayas some three days with Vijay Mahajan, who is famous in the microfinance world. Standing before him, I was awed. It’s been an unprecedented education opportunity, for me, to connect with him, and learn alongside him. Chat with him. And as I spoke with him, at one point for 45 minutes on end in a car after having arrived to our hotel, and we just sat and talked about microfinance, and helping the world’s poor, I just thought, “How the hell did I get here?!” It was just two weeks ago that connecting with him was a pipe dream. And now, he has a picture of me in his blackberry, and he told me (as we parted ways), “Call me for whatever you need.” Pretty cool to call on Mr Vijay, especially when it comes to microfinance. I told him I would.

Another woman we’ve met, and who is to be a feature in our film, her name is Anupama Joshi, and she was the first female air force pilot in India. AND (here is where comes the cool part), she questioned the reason that females needed to retire from the military after 15 years in India, when men could serve without limit, and all who served 20 years started to get their pensions. So she brought her question to the courts, and started to fight for equal opportunity in the military, because she thought service should be merit based, not gender based. She had a lawyer, but found that she was telling him everything to say, as she had lived the experience and had common sense, compelling arguments in her head, so she separated from the lawyer, and continued fighting the case, on her own. After seven years of it being drawn out, she won. And now women can serve in India’s military as long as they want.

She got lots of media attention due to the whole event, meeting Bill Clinton and Chelsea, and other world leaders.

She now runs an organization to extend financial services to the rural poor, and has built an organization serving 15,000 within two years.

She is awesome, and I know I will be connected to her for life. She had the crew over to her house for dinner a few nights ago, and the food was AWESOME. Hello Tandori Chicken! (Yes, I who rarely eats meet ate chicken… when in Rome). Mind you, as we walked in that night, Abba had been playing on the CD player. And a dance party DID later ensue (Paul Comes, I thought of you, it’s true. Equally true, you’d have a crush on Anupama).

You guys will all meet her through the movie… as I imagine you’ll all be obliged to watch the movie when it’s done….and maybe you’ll even one day meet her in person when she comes to visit me in Chicago :).

She’s 42. And she kicks butt.

Tomorrow, Anupama is meeting us to go speak with and interview Ela Bhatt, a 77-year old woman who has dedicated her life to helping poor women of India and other parts of the world, and is internationally renowned for her grassroots activism.

Needless to say, I’m quite excited to meet and talk with the woman!! She’s an activist, a do-er, AND an elder. I love!

OK, I must get to bed (truth: going to read about Ela Bhatt some more, and think about my interview with her tomorrow, to be prepared!). Happy though to have gotten SOMETHING, anything down to connect with those I love, elsewhere in the world.

Sending love, sunshine, and happiness! I’m back in Chicago in one week (Monday, March 14).
Looking forward to catching up with Chicago!!!



Goodness + Hitchhiking…

This post will be short and sweet and have nothing to do with education, my students, teaching nor me…

It is about my father-in-law and his experience with really good people today.  It restored my love and faith in all the people around me.  I know there are good people everywhere, but I just need a reminder sometimes.

My father-in-law lives six hours away from us in Wisconsin.  He has been finishing our basement for us this whole week and noticed he needed to have some thing on his car repaired.  He took it to a small repair shop about 15 minutes away and had no way to get back to our house because we were both working.  SO he asked a random guy who was also waiting for a repair to be done on his car to drive him to our house.  The guy said sure and drove him here.

My father-in-law had no way of returning to pick up his car before 5:00 while we were at work and called all the cab companies, but no one would come pick him up.  So he went on the slightly busy country road we live off of and put out his thumb.  He waited less than two minutes and the third car he saw picked him up.  (Now, I must say here that he did not HAVE TO do this, I could have driven him the next day, but when he gets an idea in his head to do something…there is no stopping him.)

There was an elderly man driving the truck with a black lab in the back seat.  He told my father-in-law that he hitch-hiked to Florida from where we live back in 1963.  He hadn’t seen a hitchhiker in years and was excited to pick up my father-in-law and help him.

There really ARE good people everywhere!  My father-in-law encountered two wonderful strangers in one day.



I have been so impressed with the student’s innate ability to just DO anything I ask them to do involving technology.  In one class period they were able to begin their own students blogs embed videos in their posts and embed their very own Vokis.

Today I showed my students how Edmodo works to see if they might be interested in using it rather than the emailing we have been doing and they were super pumped and LOVING it!

But there was just one flop today…  I told them they had they whole period today to write in Spanish about ANY THING they wanted to write about in one post on their blogs.  I told them they could write about football, the oscars, Eminem, Ke$ha, baseball…anything and anything they wanted to write about.  They asked how long it had to be.  I said as long as you want so that I can tell you put effort into it and tried your best.  They asked how many pictures they had to have.  I said as many as you want or none at all.  This is your post.  I told them about hyperlinking the text if they wanted to (they already knew how) and we started a Google Doc so that if they did not know how to say something I wrote it on the Google Doc and they added it to their blogs.  I was so excited to read them later because their other posts where I had required them to do certain things “for a grade” were so great!  I thought for sure these would be great too because it is theirs, no limits, no requirements, just them writing about what they want to.

I was so disappointed in SOME of their posts, but others were FABULOUS.  One student actually wrote that he likes steak and followed up with saying that some day he will go to Mars and see aliens.  Another student wrote that he likes mangos because they are juicy.  Another student actually wrote in Spanish, “I am typing in Spanish” that was his post.  Another wrote, I am tired, I need to sleep.  Oh MY!  They seemed engaged in what they were doing.  They seemed as if they were on task working and that was what the produced in 40 minutes?  Oh boy.  I guess I need to give them requirements from now on!  So sad! I don’t want to give them expectations nor tell them what they will be graded on.  I just want them to produce.  Maybe I have high expectations, but I thought these posts would be GREAT, not a FLOP.  Sad face  😦

Here are some of the fabulous posts:












This particular students never disappoints me.  Her work is always fabulous.  Here is a link to her post because a screen shot won’t cover all that she accomplished!