the smile, it’s all they want

I haven’t posted to this blog IN MONTHS! That is definitely not like me. Well, I am hopefully back now. I am back here to share my thoughts and ideas and feelings about teaching or anything else life throws my way. I have been caught up in blogging to this blog for my K-8 Spanish language-learning classroom, and this blog for school that is new and dedicated to the use of our Pilot iPad Program. Those have been keeping me busy and I am all blogged out! But I have realized I need this blog to reflect personally on my day to day with my students, my colleagues and life in general. I miss it.

So this post will be simple. It has been a long time in the making in my head and been in my thoughts. I have been meaning to write it here for a while now.

The one simple thing that my students want daily from me is to make me smile. They really do. They want my approval and I guess they have learned here at school that it comes in the form of a simple smile and sometimes a chuckle.
Most days it is so easy to make me smile. I come to school smiling. I am so happy almost every single day to be here. If I am not smiling when I arrive here, just thinking about this wonderful place where I work can make me smile. I sound so cheesy, but it is true. My job is fantastic.

But some days are harder than others to just simply smile and make sure each one of my students knows that they are loved. A smile is pretty simple with my Kindergarten-6th graders. They just love everything we do in this classroom so it is easy to smile with them. Even with my middle school students (7th and 8th grade) it is easy to smile. I have just had to re-learn what it is like to be inside the sometimes warped mind of a teenager.
But then there are the days when my students of all ages do something that might not have been the best choice to make in school, and I have to make sure that even when they’ve made a poor choice, they still know that I love them. I teach them for NINE WHOLE YEARS. It is a long time with a challenging student or a child that I just have a hard time meshing with…

Now that it is written here, now that I’ve committed it to “paper”, I’ll do a better job of remembering this and trying my best to smile and make sure these kids know I love them, no matter what.


❤ life is all about learning✌

I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been posting much more to two different school blogs I have. Today I am posting from my phone in the Tampa airport in sunny beautiful Florida. ☀

If you are following my blog and are more interested in what is going on in my classroom…follow this blog from school below.  I will be using “Be the Change” to reflect on the things I learn personally from my daily life with my students (and sometimes life in general like today’s post).  We also have a blog at school that I post to along with other teachers about our iPad pilot program.  It is linked below as well if you would like to follow that.




I’m so very spoiled. I really am. About a month ago I went on a long weekend trip to New Orleans, Louisiana with my family. It is something we never get to do because we live in different places and it is so difficult to make everyone’s schedule match and all be together. We lived there for almost seven years when I was young. None of us had been back together since we left 20 years ago. The trip was incredible. The weather was spectacular, the food is New Orleans is so delicious (and so bad for you), and I’ve learned it is so beneficial for me to be around my family. I learn so much about myself and why I am the way I am. Now I’m returning from a SECOND vacation with family to Siesta Key, Florida. Another wonderful place from my childhood where my family used to have a beach house when I was a kid. I am so spoiled. Two wonderful vacations and time spent with family within one months time!
I learn so much about myself and why I act, think, and do the things I do when I am with my family. I don’t get to see them very often like I said, so when I spend some quality time with them, it is all about me remembering how to just be and enjoy my family again. It’s difficult sometimes when you know people so well that you can predict what they will say or do and even how they will definitely react to something. Sometimes I really have to try and make sure to remember that the very thing that they are doing that might bother me, bothers me because that very same thing is within me as well. I love my family and I’m so lucky to have been able to spend more time with them in the last year than normal. I’ve truly become more of myself because I recognize so much of myself in them…from good to the great to the bothersome and bad. Being with my family has become one of my greatest life lessons.

And one more lesson that might sound crazy…
AIRPORTS! I always learn so much traveling through airports. Some people hate airports, I use them to get outside of my little world/box that I live in sometimes. I get stuck in my own world at times, and these days I’ve found airports to be an incredible resource to get me unstuck.
On my way to Florida from the massive, hustling and bustling Chicago O’Hare the TSA agent was not happy with my mobile boarding pass on my phone and she was screaming,”Get that thing outta my face girl. You blinding me!” I smiled as she asked in an unpleasant tone, “why can’t you just use paper?” to which I replied (SWEETLY), “why can’t you just keep up with the times?” It was funny. The rest of the airport experience was quite pleasant. It really was. I just love to people watch and to be reminded of just how massive our world truly is. Airports really help me do that. They break me out of my small box by reminding me of all the different people it takes to run this place!
So now I am in the sky blogging away! So cool!

Let’s see if I can post this while flying in the sky…here goes…after I post some pics of my wonderful family! ✌

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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!!!



We all smile in the same LANGUAGE

This post is inspired by the amazing Technology Director at my school, Virginia Glass. I sometimes refer to her as Mrs. Claus because she is the one who provides me with the technological toys, the knowledge and inspiration to use them. She has the ideas and then I get to put them into play. And when I say PLAY, I really mean PLAY! We recently started meeting after school some days for “play dates” so that we can figure out all these incredible 21st century tools we are fortunate enough to possess.

The video above is what I want my next Skype call to look like. Ginni told me to watch it. She said it reminded her of a quote that I have in the end of each of my emails, “We all smile in the same language.” Our world is becoming so connected in so many ways. I love it. My 6th graders talked to teacher Greta Sandler in Argentina on Skype. She was “in” our classroom. When my students are out for a day, we Skype them into our classroom so they don’t miss a thing. We can read what each other have experienced in our daily lives and connect and empathize and discuss online. I am so optimistic that I am hoping technology can bring us to a place of compassion and understanding. Once we make these connections with so many places around the world with Skype, Twitter, Face Book, Wikis, Blogs or which ever social network you are using…maybe, just maybe we can reach that place of peace that so many people have been hoping for. Maybe these connections can help us reach a place of love and non-judgment. What do you all think? I know, I am the eternal optimist. My husband thinks I am naive. 🙂 I LOVE this new world or network where “being here is being there.” Maybe this change won’t happen in my lifetime, but I can hope, right? I can hope that understanding each other’s worlds and lives can help us get there?

MOVIEs in Spanish class!

My 6th-8th grade students earn Spanish Euros toward class parties. Each class has a bank and they earn them daily. They have the opportunity to earn sixty per day based on the six pillars of Character Counts. They earn ten for each pillar. They need to earn 1500 to EARN a party. Today being Friday, each class (by chance) 🙂 had earned a class party. During las fiestas, my students eat lots of junk (they volunteer to bring things) and we watch DVDs in Spanish with English subtitles. They love it and I think they impress themselves with the amount of Spanish they actually do understand as they watch. Of course they do not understand all the words, but they surprise me and themselves with what they know. I am so proud of them!

It is amazing what a movie can make my students do! They are so focused on the movie in Spanish (minus my darling 8th graders who are just so social they can’t focus on much else but one another), my students hardly know I am tricking them. They think they are having a party, but I am really engaging them and forcing them into immersing themselves into the language I want them to produce daily. Ha! 🙂 My 6th graders watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid in Spanish with English subtitles, my first 7th grade class watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, my 8th graders watched Night at the Museum, Battle of the Smithsonian and my final 7th grade class watched Alvin and the Chipmunks. They were all so engaged as they watched. It was a great day. Junk food and movies they love…Who wouldn’t be happy? It was a great Friday.

And one last thing about movies…and this story is just to make you laugh at me. My sweet 1st graders had a substitute last week. She did not speak Spanish so she read them One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss in English. They were supposed to watch an animated video of the book in Spanish after the book. Well, they ran out of time and the substitute told them MAYBE they would watch the movie the next time. Well, they did not have Spanish class for another week and OH BOY…six and seven year old children NEVER forget if you tell them they are going to watch a MOVIE!

Well, it was a VHS tape that I never use (only substitutes ever use it) and as soon as they walked in, they all wanted to watch it! SO I put the VHS tape in. I could not get it to play. I took it out and put it back in, pressed lots of buttons…and it would not play. I had copied the VHS tape to a DVD years ago so I tried that…it was a NO GO too! Seriously, I spent about 20 minutes of the 30 minute class trying to get it to work! I finally gave the VHS tape one last try because my little ones were begging, I pressed REWIND and heard that familiar whirring sound that I was accostomed to as a child! Oh my gosh! All I had to do was rewind…AND I THINK I UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY!? Teachers at my school sometimes come to me for help and I couldn’t work a VHS tape! Sad! But the little kiddies were happy when it played (the majority of them had never seen a VHS tape before!) Movies! A winner with all age groups and learning styles!

The Power of a Teacher

My principal Debbie Barnes gave us all an activity to do one day at a staff meeting about 4 year ago. She gave us a piece of paper with a question, What do you remember about your best/favorite teacher? Describe your favorite/best teacher. Or something like that…

I made the list and was enamored with it, recognizing its importance, and hung it in a place where I see it each day (by my computer) so that I can be reminded that it is my job first and foremost, before I teach Spanish, I must make my students feel the way my favorite teacher made me feel. They need to feel good, safe, smart, comfortable, special and loved to name just a few.

In that same staff meeting, she gave us this quote from Haim G. Ginott

Most important quote for me to see EVERY DAY!

This quote has been so important in my teaching career. I cannot really express its importance in words. When I think about how much power a teacher really has, it is mind-boggling! I use this quote every day to help my students feel the same way my favorite teacher(s) (there were more than one) made me feel each day as I was around them.

Oh no! Gotta Go!

If you have never read books by Susan Middleton Elya you are missing out! Her books are so great and my 2nd grade students absolutely adore them and keep asking me to read them more!

Two of their favorites are Oh no! Gotta GO! and Oh no! Gotta Go #2!.

All of her books are so great! She is not a native Spanish-speaker, but writes in English with rhyming Spanish words! Both books above are about a little girl with a baño emergency. They love them! I just do not have time to read ALL of her LIBROS with my 2nd graders. I wrote her an email in hopes that she might Skype with me and my 2nd graders so that they can ask questions and express their love and adoration for her books! One of my students, who I call Guillermo was even so inspired that he decided to write his VERY OWN libro (book). Here it is! Click to open or download!

Guillermo’s Sequel to Oh No. Gotta Go!