Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gratitude in any language

Long ago I read a quote and have kept it handy but I don't remember the source.  

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend."

As the participants came into the conference room today, they were abuzz with activity.  There was a big package that was a surprise, several containers of food and a lot of smiles.  Mitzi began by reviewing the homework related to reflection and reading comprehension.  I went over the importance of planning (again) and gave some starter and summary ideas for lessons. I reiterated that the busiest time for teachers should be the planning and that during the classes the students should be actively engaged.  We then put people in groups as they rotated through eight different stations for learning creating an activity at each station using the materials provided.  We noticed a new confidence in their ability to “think outside the box” and use their imagination.  For example, with a pile of markers we fully expected them to just draw a picture.  Instead, several groups used the markers for forming words.

The participants were so full of gratitude and displayed their enthusiasm for becoming better teachers. Some examples:
*  Dania mentioned that she realized she had been teaching wrong all this time.  Mitzi was quick to affirm her in her dedication to teaching and that we are always striving to improve.  
*  Johanna’s daughter was in a serious motorcycle accident on Wednesday and yet she came for the end of Friday morning because she wanted to learn about the final project and to participate in the celebration.

* Aracelly was always reluctant to share her ideas and yet she was the spokesperson for the entire class in expressing their appreciation.
*  Ligia mentioned that she realized she could make so many of these materials that we had mentioned and she could make them fit her students.

* Yessica hoping that her recovery from back surgery is quick so she can get back to the classroom and start working on some reading and vocabulary with her students.

* Miriam being intrigued by the idea of Multiple Intelligences and that she could start seeing "smart students in a different way.  She could use UDL to reach all of them.
*  Several others commented on how they now realize they need to be more attentive to the whole reading process and to make it enjoyable.

*  Each person who has access to Facebook wants to be part of a group where they can continue to share ideas and support each other.

These are just a few examples that they have a lot to offer these students.  They can use what they have and it will be more than enough.  They began with a lot of confusion and have seen some clarity over the last five modules.  They planned a lunch but it quickly became a feast.  Rosa spent hours cooking in her home—making delicious cannelloni with some salad (and rice, of course).  :-)  They were so joy filled to be able to provide this meal... this feast of thanksgiving.  
Reynaldo and Johanna brought us special desserts
 because Mitzi mentioned them yesterday.

Aracelly spoke for the group and thanked all of us for our sacrifices to be with them.  Because of us, they are able to go out and make a difference for their students.  They know we left our families and have had to pay a large portion of the expenses ourselves.  They also know how hard it is for us when we don’t speak Spanish effectively and yet they appreciate our attempts.  

Then, Daniel brought us our “surprises.”  Daniel teaches carpentry to students with special needs.  His Deaf students made these model rockers for us, all the participants chipped in to buy them and they gave them with deep love and appreciation.  I have always wanted a rocker from Nicaragua—I just thought it would be bigger!   :-)   He showed such pride in his students and he just knew we would love it! 

Gratitude is an understatement for how ALL of us were feeling and we were/are feeling the fullness of life.

Being available.
Being kind.
Being compassionate.
Being transparent.
Being real.
Being thoughtful.
Being ourselves.

A beautiful view from the top of the Cathedral at Calvary church
and the amazing chain of volcanoes in Nicaragua.  Looking forward to being back in July!

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