Thursday, March 26, 2009

Super heroes

I think we're flying high right now in the IslandWood grad program. We just finished a tough quarter and are dangerously close to spring fever. The long cold months of winter are behind us, and two-thirds (!) of the program are already over. I can't speak for everyone, but I feel as though we've accomplished something big in these past few months. When we were bogged down with multiple projects and group meetings, we felt stretched. But we made it through: duh da da DA! Out of sheer passion and resilience and trust in each other. We are superheroes after all-- super duper environment-teaching happiness machines. This photo shows cohort-half "C"--better known as Cohort Sunshine because of the sunny skies we spread as we teach--in our last teaching week together, displaying our unique, internal superdom on the outside. We make a pretty good team of hero-friends, I think! Watch out, all you who stray towards our secret hero lair; you'll have multiple forces to contend with. Cohort "D"--that of the formidable Screaming Eagle--is finishing up their last teaching week as I speak. We'll all retreat for some much needed R&R next week on our spring break, but when we return our powers will be reassembled in new, even more powerful teams, ready for our next chance to save the world!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Teaching strong

I've learned that good teaching means not giving up. On Tuesday evening of this past teaching week, I thought that my challenge was too hard. I couldn't instill a passion for nature in kids who seemed too tired and distracted to enjoy this place. But by Wednesday morning, I realized I was wrong. These kids were shining in this experience. They showed more progress than I'd ever seen in the four-day program so far.

I taught a group of seven fifth graders from Bailey-Gatzert Elementary in Central District Seattle, a school that provides 94% of students with free and reduced lunch. My group of funny, creative, dynamic four girls and three boys were from a different socio-economic area than the one in which I grew up, and I needed to recognize these differences at the very beginning of the teaching week. These kids are growing up with much different choices than the ones I had as a kid. But we met each other on Monday with just as much as enthusiasm as ever, and our relationships started building and maturing fast. I kept in the back of my mind all the philosophies on multicultural education we've been studying in our Foundations of Education class this quarter. It's a tough question, asking how best to teach and get along with different kinds of people, but it seems that invariably, recognition and appreciation of differences is key. I'm glad I've gotten some practice anyway, and by the end of this week, I felt more appreciation than ever for this opportunity to meet some amazing young people that make me feel enormous pride in their teamwork skills and love of learning.

Team Rain: Marlon, Dureyse, Kayausha, Lynnisha, Angelica, Bezza, and Juwrayriya, you made me so proud! You showed great respect for each other and for me and for Ms. Allison. You played the djembe drums with passion and talent. You sang songs on the trail with energy and laughter. You found birds, slugs, bugs, mushrooms, trees; you listened for owls and songbirds and coyotes; you smelled fungus and stinky bob; you tasted licorice fern and cedar needle and garden-fresh sorrel and carrots; you felt moss and fern spores and the heat from the compost bin; and you showed me things and asked about things that even I hadn't thought of before. You put your heart and soul into your experience at IslandWood, and it and I will miss you! I wish you all the luck in the world with school and life and laughter.