2016: The Year that Defined Us?

It’s not easy to admit when we are wrong. And in the past year, there has been much, much wrong. DAPL, the death of  David Bowie (May He Rest in Peace), and the election of Donald Trump top my personal list. Death notwithstanding (as little can be done to prevent “natural” death–although it’d be nice if we’d finally get around to curing cancer), could we have prevented what is wrong in the world?

You may look back and see many “wrongs” that define the year 2016 for you, and not necessarily agree with  the list that follows. There were just so many injustices and sadnesses to choose from–no matter your religion, political affiliation, your stand on the environment, or on human rights. But should 2016 come to be known as the year that defined us as a country, a world, as human beings I don’t know…that depends on your definition.

Were we intolerant and violent?


Were we deluded?

Image result for Trump followers

Photo from Vox online magazine, 2016


Were we destructive?

From Conserve Energy Future online website, 2016



Were we uncaring?

Image result for syrian refugee crisis

Photo from helpforsyria.org.uk online website



Were we wasteful?

Photo from Think Progress online magazine, 2013


People walk past a Forever 21 store in New York's Times Square in 2010. U.S. consumer confidence jumped this month to the highest level since February.

From US News and World Report online, 2012. MARY ALTAFFER/AP PHOTO.


Were we ignorant?

Image result for social media ignorance



This list is inexhaustible, and I am sure, open to debate. It is merely a snapshot of issues, and the views of those who experience these types of “wrongs” vary so widely, there may be no real answers to “righting” them. I merely wish to share that they are out there, and (still) bear reflection.

We do not have to be defined by them, and obviously, 2016 wasn’t the only year that saw these types of problems. It stands to reason that we–the world and its people–may have been part of the problem, perhaps even the cause. And even if we weren’t, then we need to continue to try to right the wrongs to the best of our collective abilities. Ceaselessly.

2017 looms. Can we shorten the list of wrongs? Probably not, there will always be new issues to deal with, and we are continuously taking two steps back as we take two forward. But no matter how dire the coming year seems to be, we must try to face it with everything we’ve got. And rise to it. Keep reading, keep thinking, keep hope alive.



Politico online Magazine: Black Lives Matter isn’t stopping, And President Obama could be next, the group’s co-founder tells POLITICO. By SARAH WHEATON 08/20/15
Reverb online magazine: Police Cross Line As Standing Rock Protester Has Arm Blown Apart. November 21, 2016 Dylan Hock
Vox online magazine: The rise of American authoritarianism by Amanda Taub on March 1, 2016
Slate online: Bad Astronomy (Blog)- No, Global Warming Has NOT Stopped. by Phil Plait March 2013
Conserve Energy Future: Global Warming (blog) by Rinkesh. Retrieved December 2016
FIRMM online website: Plastic debris in the ocean. 2013/10/03 15:08 by firmm Team
Help for Syria website: The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Searching for Peace. September 2016, UK Charities Making A Difference
World.Mic online magazine: 45 Surprising Facts About Extreme Poverty Around the World You May Not Have Realized. By Hyacinth Mascarenhas May 22, 2014
Think Progress online article: Americans Throw Out 40 Percent Of Their Food, Which Is Terrible For The Climate By Andrew Breiner and Katie Valentine, Jun 5, 2013
US News and World Report online magazine: The Wasteful Culture of Forever 21, H&M, and ‘Fast Fashion’, By Lisa Chau,  Contributor Sept. 21, 2012
WAVAW Rape Crisis Center online website: What is Rape Culture? WAVAW staff. Retrieved December 2016.





This video still applies: #BlackLivesMatter

This needs to keep going around, until everyone, everywhere, gets the point. We should not stay quiet in the face of racism.

You Don't Know Me, But You Will...

This video, courtesy of AJ+ via Facebook, pretty much sums up the race war being perpetuated by elite, mostly white forces—under the guise of “law enforcement”– in this country. Two more deaths: #AntonSterling, and #PhilandoCastile.

Now, violence in #Dallas.

If this cycle doesn’t stop soon, it will spill over into everyone’s lives–it already has, to some degree.

But when you have to worry that your child or any of your loved ones could be the next to fall, then you might understand the rage and sadness felt by those who lost someone in these horrible incidents. And exactly why #BlackLivesMatter.

The young poet, Sarah O’Neal, in the video says: Ask us to  be polite, to stay calm, to voice grief with respect…while our brothers’ bodies are laid out in the street, sounding the alarm.

This is not a time to stay quiet.

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Fear and Loathing in Professional Development

This is a bit of a rant, so I apologize in advance. However, it is not all negative. Let me start with this disclaimer: I actually enjoy (most) professional development  opportunities…hell, I sign up for some I am not even required to take! Summer is a great time to get this out of the way. We even get a stipend, on occasion. And I actually enjoy exchanging ideas and learning new things with like-minded colleagues.

The issue I am going to discuss is more about “professional relationships”.

I am a naturally private person. But, like most people, I want to be liked, or at least shown a little respect. It is difficult for me to put myself in social situations, and pretend to be anything other than myself. Despite the “norms” of a professional development gathering, when teachers get together  in one space for more than a few hours, hackles go up over the most trivial things. Now, multiply those few hours by four days, and you will totally understand the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”.

The human ego is a very fragile thing. I admit that my ego gets ruffled and takes quite a beating on a regular basis. Part of this is because I am a sensitive person, with a tendency to be critical of myself, and sometimes others. I have learned over the years to swallow my pride, and filter my feelings, especially when I think someone is full of shit.

Teachers are notorious for seeking approval and getting on a soapbox. Sometimes I think they are one step away from a career change to politics or acting (and some actually do go there). We all have something to say about something, and we all have years of experience and ideas we are eager to share. At least most of us.

At the most recent PD symposium I attended this past week, which was specifically for ELD and Bilingual educators, we were called “experts” in our field, but we were also expected to listen and learn. Teachers are sometimes not the best of students. They can be found sitting in little cliques, often only associating with those of their preferred social group: Same school, same race, same language. Often, they will be seen chatting and basically ignoring presenters, or worse, they will interrupt with a personal anecdote that is only marginally related to the discussion.

This is to be expected, I suppose. I have found myself wanting to share my personal thoughts on a method or issue of education, and my hand will shoot up, just like it used to when I was in public school. I am not one for attention seeking, as a rule, but when I have a burning question or think I have the answer, I am on it.

This tendency I have is met with mixed reactions. Mostly I get to say my piece, and I am encouraged and acknowledged. Sometimes, I am rebuffed or even ignored. I can take it with some dignity. Now, sit me at a table of individuals with whom I have only a passing acquaintance, and things begin to get uncomfortable. Especially when they start judging you. And you them.

I will cut you Uni

At first, they appear welcoming. They save you a seat at the table. They ask questions about your work, and tell you a bit about themselves. It’s all very cordial and amicable. They invite you to sit with them at lunch break. They ask you what you think about a topic. Everything seems smooth.

Then, as the hours and days drag on, they start to show another side. Personal agendas, attitudes and pet peeves work their way into the conversations. They say things like this:

“I thought you were mad at me when you made that comment” (when maybe you are just hot, tired, or distracted, and give terse responses), or “You really like to jabber don’t you?” (when you deign to volunteer to answer questions for the group), or “You seem competitive!” (when you are supposed to be working on something together). Soon, you begin to doubt yourself, feel self-conscious, and slowly  withdraw.

You look for any excuse to get away from them. Take a restroom break. Get up to stretch at the back of the room. When on break, you seek out other people who seem open and friendly, or alternately sit alone outside under a tree.

Sound familiar? It’s just a typical summer PD that has gone on for too many hours and days, and everyone’s wheels start spinning. Until it is almost out of control, and no one remembers why they even signed up.

Suddenly, it ends. You pack your crap up, say rushed goodbyes, and if cornered, make somewhat insincere attempts at heartfelt farewells and reconciliation. Meanwhile, you are screaming “Get me the hell outta here!” in your brain.

Looking back at the experience, you might believe you would have been just as well informed if they had actually handed you the binder of reading and instructional materials, so you could peruse them at your leisure at home, instead.

After all, you still have about a month left of vacation. Sheesh!

Go to Hell




A Holiday Season Wish to All

Peace on Earth

Here’s to my few but cherished readers, people who make a difference in this world. Here’s to all the learners and the teachers, the thinkers and the bloggers, trying to bring about a better tomorrow. Here’s to all of the displaced and the refugees, the seekers of freedom and peace, in a world seemingly gone mad. There is a place for you, in our hearts and in our home countries…I would welcome you openly, now and in any season.

Let there be peace and understanding, in the New Year and forever-after.

It is possible…if we can dream it, it can manifest. Language cannot keep us apart, because a smile and a kind gesture is the same in any dialect.

¡Paz!  Mir!  和平!Paix! Frieden! Ειρήνη! शांति!  Béke!   Perdamaian!   صلح!

សន្តិភាព! Te rangimarie! शान्ति! Мир! မိဿဟာယ!  Nabad! Amani! שָׁלוֹם!

 สันติภาพ!  Barış!  Hòa bình!

Paris and the ISIS Attacks Just Make Me Want to Educate Even More Refugees

Education is a Weapon


When I heard about the attacks in Paris, I had just come home from working all week in school. The reality of it did not sink in until I encountered more and more images and posts on social media. You see, I avoid the news these days…it is rarely positive, offers little hope, and no real solutions. I find more comfort in the more intimate outrage  and ideas of regular human beings.

But I am also saddened by many people’s attitudes toward refugees, Muslim refugees in particular. I see a lot of really stupid, racist generalizations about people from other countries (i.e: Non-Americans). So the intimate outrage becomes outright bigotry, that in turn fosters more misconceptions. Then, people start lashing out at victims of that terrorism, such as the Syrian refugees. And make no mistake: They are suffering the same terrorism, in much larger numbers, so much so that they have had to flee their homes and cross many continents to find a safe haven.

What happened in France is devastating, unthinkable…but  it is just another thread in the fabric of an intolerant society. A symptom of a greater disease. Refugees fleeing religious persecution and wars are accepted readily enough in European countries, but the same demonization that occurs in America has inflicted those in France, and Belgium (which turns out to be where the latest young terrorist cell came from). These young people feel marginalized, with little hope of acceptance and a brighter future, so they turn to organizations like ISIS to find purpose, and they believe, justification for their anger.

When we as people make assumptions and statements like “all refugees can be potential terrorists” and “no terrorist-refugees will be welcome in my neighborhood!”, we become as backward and twisted as the hate-mongering fundamentalists we profess we are totally against.

So…what solutions have we? Governments decree an “eye for an eye” approach, and the bombs fall. More innocents die, along with the ones whom our leaders are trying to punish. Thousands and thousands of refugees are created yet again. And then those refugees are in turn treated with suspicion. They may be taken on in the name of “humanity”, but the acceptance stops there. Now they must start over as strangers in a strange land, nurtured or hated –depending on the current public opinion.

ESL group at ELD Saturdays Desert Courtyard 5

As for me: What has happened in Paris, as has been happening for as long as I can remember, just makes me want to educate even more refugee students. These are the people I can reach. These are the ones who wish so badly to be accepted, to find a home, to find a voice. Education, in English or any other second language, gives these people leverage, a future. Will hopefully lift them out of poverty. Will lessen the chance of their becoming marginalized in any society. Then, and only then, will organizations like ISIS fail to sway the hearts and minds of the world’s children.

What are your thoughts?  Feel free to comment, but let us be civil about it.

Peace be on us all.