For fifteen years I taught educators from Latin America who studied in the US for a year and then returned to their home countries to be agents of change. Besides my education classes, they participated in leadership classes with Linda Ximenes. Being an agent of change means dealing with many diverse human beings and organizations. With Linda X., they practiced being effective group leaders and contributors. With her, before leaving, they would develop short and long term plans of action for their return. With me and Coordinator Julia Jarrell, they would develop Capstone Projects that fleshed out their immediate plans. Through social media, I am pleased to see so many of them putting their plans into action in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. At the very end of their courses, we would often participate in mutually affirming activities. A simple, but inspirational activity was as follows: Each participant and teacher traced their own hand on a paper plate, which was then attached to their back. Each person then wrote something they liked or appreciated about each other person on the plates. As you can see from the photograph, I have kept many of these!
I know that Thanksgiving has past, but I’m feeling especially thankful today. First, I am grateful for these teachers. They have the courage to tackle enormous problems—lack of books, paper, electricity, drinking water; too many children and not enough help; and more. But I am also grateful for their impact on me as a professional. My talent is developing curriculum and instruction and in linking research and practice. Because the “maestros” and I were all so different, it heightened my own creativity and problem solving. How could I involve them actively in a deep understanding of the art and science of teaching? Our interactions broadened and intensified my work with any and all teachers and children. So I thank them.
Second, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to direct the award-winning Learning About Learning (LAL) Lab School in the ‘70’s. We had the chance to create a truly learner-centered context, where we worked to discover and nurture each child’s unique way of thinking and learning. A place where diversity and cooperation was celebrated. A place where evaluators thought all our children were “gifted and talented” because they were able to communicate expressively and thoughtfully. (Of course we believe all children are “gifted and talented” but some of our children had never really experienced academic success previously.) I’m grateful to the LAL Director, Jearnine Wagner, and my colleagues who donated work and fresh viewpoints to the enterprise. Most of all, I’m grateful to the children of the school. I have been privileged to see how some of them grew to adulthood and I am amazed at their strength, resilience and creativity, despite many, many challenges. Recently two children from the school visited me—forty years later! They want to keep the ideas alive and share the LAL experience with others. What a wonderful thing! I thank them so much!
Of course, I have gratitude for many more people, past and present, in my life. You made me a better person! Thank you!
♥♥♥ Turning the corner on another year is a good time to remember the people and other beings in our life who have helped us to become our best selves. Gracias, mis amigos! Seguimos adelante! ♥♥♥