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Psyched about ACTING UP!

dramaThis past week, my good friend Tracy Martin came to play with my students and me after school.

Last year, I started this amazing group called Acting Up! It’s for English Learners to practice English while working on fulfilling community service requirements. Each year, students at my school must do 10 hours of community service, or 40 by the time they graduate.

The problem is, my students don’t really understand what community service is, or why you would want to take time out of your day to go pick up trash or give out water at a 5K or sort through donated clothes or the like. Why would you do that when you have so much to do at home?

And, my students don’t understand much of what I’m saying.

So, I decided to create this group to make it a little more fun to get done what needs to be done and to help them move forward quickly in their English acquisition process.

Week 1, we tried to look at multilingual stories. I’d love to have students bring to life stories they heard from home. We tried reading Going on a Lion Hunt. But those students didn’t feel excited about this. So they didn’t show up for week 2.

Week 2. New, smaller crowd. We read the Three Little Pigs, which none of these kiddos had heard of before. We talked about sound effects and what kids would like to hear. We talked about how we could make our voices funny in a script.

Week 3. Tracy. We played this FANTASTIC game that combined so many games we had played before. We made shapes while saying our names. Others mirrored that shape. Then we added feelings to that shape.

“What does my shape look like?” Tracy asked.

Students shouted out possible responses:

  • Bored
  • Tired
  • Sad

We voted for the one we thought fit it best, then we moved on. The chairs we sat in then became the “stations” for those emotions.

We practiced moving across the circle in different ways that reflected the sounds we would hear in Going on a Lion Hunt by David AxtellSwishy swashy, swishy, swashy! (mimicking the sound of grass, pantomiming pushing the grass aside). Splish! Splosh! Splish!Splosh! (mimicking the sound of splashing through the lake). But each time, we’d get to our chairs and go back to those emotions we defined at the beginning.

It was such a beautiful experience, bringing to life words students were encountering for the first time… words like PENSIVE and DEPRESSED. So lovely!

Finally, we read the book. And those words truly came to life. I can’t wait to see what tricks Tracy has up her sleeves this time. And I hope that my students bring back friends.

For teachers of English Learners, our lives are not always predictable. One of my families might be moving, and with that, they will take just about half of my club. It makes me sad. I’m so happy that they are finding a better apartment to live in and that their opportunities may be growing.

But if they leave, I will be sad. And I will have to work to get more students to come in and work with me on bringing this project to life.


Happy November!

Bitmoji ImageEvery year, I find myself wanting to restart my blog… I have so much to share with my fellow teachers! But life gets in the way. And so does the sun.

Today starts daylight savings.

I took Thursday and Friday off from school to provide myself a little bit of a respite from life and to gather my inner strength.

I went running, I visited with friends. I got the winter tires on the cars. I made plans for future professional engagements. I did all sorts of things I don’t usually take time to do.

And it was glorious.

I feel much more ready to go back and take on life.

But as Sunday wears on, I wonder whether anybody discussed with my students (all of whom arrived in country in the past few months) anything about the time change. I’m sure it happened. But I always worry…

So I just want to put some good karma out there into the world even as my brain tries to drag me back into a perpetual feeling of trepidation.

Have a fantastic day. And take some time out to smell a flower or two. Particularly while the sun is still shining brightly.

I’m taking a wonderful class offered by Peace University. Here’s a recent assignment, in which we thought about how the Earth Charter intersected with our everyday lives:

There are several schools in my city that are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. To get from one end of the high school to the other, one sometimes has to go outside. And it some climates, that may not matter, but we often have below freezing weather in Vermont.

For the elementary and middle schools, the solution the city has adopted is to send students with disabilities to other schools that are ADA compliant. But there is only one public high school. It has ramps that are too steep, as well as buildings with no way to get from one floor to the next.

We now are instituting restorative practices districtwide, but up until very recently, students of color and students qualifying for special education services were suspended at a higher rate than white students and students without disabilities. Many decisions on educational services for students are based on whether it’s convenient to provide them. We don’t have enough para-professionals hired, so students who should have 1:1 help oftentimes don’t get the help they are by law supposed to get. And unless there is some oversight from the state, it will not happen.

In this political climate, where more emphasis is placed on the bottom line instead of what is best for students, the oversight is not happening.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no person shall be denied a nationality. The majority of the students I teach are Nepali-speaking Bhutanese. And although this is not happening in my region, the fallout from what has happened in Bhutan has resulted in hundreds of people being resettled in Vermont because they have, in effect, no nationality. If these teens make decisions that pit them against the law for any reason, they could potentially be deported. Some of the cultures my students bring with them are in direct violation of U.S. law, and because these communities are separate from the mainstream, issues are not recognized, and so little is done to stop practices such as female genital mutilation, forced arranged marriages or polygamy.

There are also many hidden ways that people are discriminated against, ways that often are not in public view, such as sexual discrimination (#metoo movement), hiring and rental decisions and more. In the video, there were examples of inequality in racism (Muslim ban), war, marriage equality, environmental devastation and more. People are rising up and protesting.

In Vermont, people are very politically active. They march in protest. The city has decided to be listed as a sanctuary city, despite national threats to funding sources. The state is working on phosphorus and clean water issues despite the trend for deregulation at the national level. Our state long has been focused on issues of drug addiction and abuse. And we’re beginning to realize more fully the issues facing elders. And still, there is more to be done.

Inequalities disrupt peace because it’s difficult to find happiness when the state is not supporting equality for everyone. The issue I deal most directly with is poverty, which then leads to a host of other maladies. My students’ parents work in jobs with no sick leave, and so taking a day off of work could potentially put their income levels at risk, making it impossible to pay rent or get food. Drugs and alcohol potentially dull the pain of dealing with money issues or unresolved post-traumatic stress syndrome. Anger can lead to fights; loss of income can trigger thefts. And that could lead to deportation. And this level of unease spreads to the children, raising their defenses, making it less likely that they will do well in school.

So can there be peace with no justice? My answer is a resounding “no”. The ripple effect makes life difficult for everyone surrounding the person facing difficulties. And then we all pay the price.

Acting locally…

What are the #globalgoals? The full list is here.  http://tinyurl.com/nwo6s5o

I’m taking a class on sustainablity @UPeace with the support of @KappaDeltaPi. And it’s what I DON’T think about that is gnawing at my brain this week.

There are so many ways that the things we do locally have a global impact. And we don’t think about that when we’re going through life, dealing with our day-to-day stress…


The above diagram looks at the 17 Sustainable Development Goals through the lens of the World Health Organization. One of my colleagues in my class shared this, and I thought it was so amazing, I just needed to share it.

One of our assignments last week was to think of one way that we could help society progress toward these sustainable development goals.

My answer:

I believe I am fighting poverty every day (goal 1). By moving my students toward graduation, I am helping them reach a higher income bracket. At school, we feed (goal 2) and clothe students who don’t have the resources to do so themselves. I just gave out five pairs of gloves and more than a dozen pairs of warm socks just last week. I strive to get my students to see themselves as scholars, worthy of every privilege their native-English-speaking colleagues have (education, goal 4). I also advocate for them on many levels, inside and outside the school, including in court (goal 16) and in finding work (goal 8).

But in taking a class like this, it makes me wonder what more I could do. And what could I build into my lessons. How can I make the world a better place?

Thinking of TESOL?

The early deadline for #TESOL18 is coming fast…

I’ve been studying the lineup, and I’m so excited about the sessions on my list. Catch up with me at #myTESOL18!

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 4.05.44 PM

Just completed my registration tonight!

Got approval for reimbursement for K-12 day!

I’m ready to go #Tesol18 #Mytesol18

So I shared with my student teacher’s mentor that I’m working on grit and self advocacy in the classroom. I found these lovely videos that talk about grit and self advocacy. You can see them below (skip on past these videos if you already know the concepts…).

This was my whole lesson. Telling them that I was going to be serious about grades. Serious about deadlines. Serious about learning. I was going to make them into responsible students even if it killed me.

What is grit? Tell your neighbor!


What did the students want to tell their teachers?Tell a partner!

And then Suzy, my partner teacher from years and years Suzy, tells me that grit is crap.

That’s not what I want to hear just after I deliver this lesson. She sent me this article, which brings the idea of trauma into the mix. The writer talks about seeing a talk by Tyrone C. Howard in which he brings up the challenges facing students in a world where grit and resiliency have become buzz words but few are facing the issues keeping students from being successful. (You can see a video of part of that talk below. And the slides to go with it here: 2015-11-11-motivation-howard)


Among the most salient quotes:

“We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them,” he said. It can be irresponsible and unfair to talk about grit without talking about structural challenges, he said, referring to the recent interest in interventions tied to the concepts of grit and perseverance.


My students are facing myriad challenges. According to the article, Howard says in an average U.S. classroom, one can assume this:

  • 7 out of 30 live in poverty;
  • 11 out of 30 are non-white;
  • 6 out of 30 do not speak English as a first language;
  • 6 out of 30 are not reared by their biological parents;
  • 1 out of 30 are homeless;
  • 6 out of 30 are victims of physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse before turning 18.

Of these, all of my students fall into the first three categories. Some of them fall into the fourth. As far as I know, none are homeless. At least not right now. And I don’t know, though I have my suspicions that most fall into the last one.

And yes.

I know.

But I’ve gotta try, right?


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