Thursday, May 26, 2011

MOSAIC Camp - Day 3

Though it is very wet and rainy up here the children are still enjoying themselves at camp.  After spending Tuesday exploring the differences that make us unique individuals, today we learned how we are all connected.

"When you tug on any one thing, you'll find it is hitched to everything else in the universe." - John Muir
The children are learning about the differences between being passive, aggressive, and assertive.  They learned more about some of our worlds great heroes and peacemakers:

Rosa Parks

The children learned to be assertive and not aggressive.  They practiced helping others be assertive.  The day closed with a "Very Unusual Dinner," which modeled the distribution of wealth in the world.  But in this model, the kids had the opportunity to change the world and re-create it as they would ideally envision the world to be.  When they entered the dining hall one table was decked out with toys, lavish decorations and fancy chairs, two tables were up with chairs but nothing fancy, and the majority of the tables were on the ground without chairs.  Cabins were randomly selected and assigned to the various tables.  This brought out a lot of feelings of unfairness and anger.  The "haves" were happy at first because of all the fun things they had, including 5 teachers to serve them their pizza dinner.  The "have-nots" were very angry with those sitting at tables.  The children talked about how it felt to sit on the floor while their friends were getting treated like kings and queens.  By the end of dinner the children came up with a plan for building a community based on fairness that the rest of the would would emulate.  The students at the head table gave out their toys or "resources", to the tables on the floor, helped pick their tables up and found chairs for them to sit on.

I am always impressed with the students' willingness to take risks here at MOSAIC, whether it be sharing their ideas and emotions in front of the whole camp, trying an activity wholeheartedly or simply sitting next to someone they don't really know.  I am watching them grow and change right before my eyes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Relationships: High School Girlfriends

Carrie Bradshaw once wrote..."Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous."  This quote sums up the way that I feel about the relationships I have had for many years with a special group of girls from Burlingame High School.

After reading my dear friend Andrea's recent blog post about the amazing relationship that we, our high school girlfriends, have maintained over the past ten years, I began thinking about how unique and special the bond is that we have.  We have been in each others lives for so many things; first loves, going away to college, achieving lifelong dreams, deaths, starting careers, breakups, marriage, babies....the list goes on.  As old memories were stirred up, I began to think about how each of my girlfriends has affected my life and the woman that I have become and I decided I should let them know....
Julia & me

Julia - You have taught me that sometimes less is more.  You are, hands down, one of the nicest and most genuine people that I know.  Your kind and caring nature are the reasons that I love you and that so many other people do as well. 
Rachel & me

Rachel G - You have taught me to be spontaneous.  You are energetic, spunky, and fun-loving.  You are also loving, nurturing, and passionate. 

Melissa & me

Melissa - You have taught me that hard work pays off.  You left high school knowing that you wanted to be a dentist and you worked incredibly hard.  It still amazes me that you are 27 and a dentist.  What an accomplishment.  From you I learn to be goal oriented and driven but I also have learned that hard work should be followed by PLAYTIME! 

Cristina & me

Cristina - You have taught me to be more outgoing.  You are social and popular, two things that I am not always good at being.  I have never had a friend with so many friends!  You are a lover of fun and a lover of friends. 

Me, Mike, Bryce, & Kylie
 Kylie - You have taught me to nurture.  Every time I think of you my eyes fill with tears of pride.  You are a MOTHER.  You are a natural lover and caregiver.  I am overcome with happiness for you and your family.  It is so beautiful to see you as a mommy.

Rachel & me

Rachel H - You have taught me to just do what I want!  You are such an independent woman and you are always up for a challenge.  I wish I was more like you, in the sense that you get an idea or a thought in your mind and just
make it happen.  

Lindsay & me

Lindsay - You have taught me to enjoy life.  You are a lover of life, soaking up the sun and spending time outside enjoying your surroundings.  Though I do not do those things enough, from you I have learned they are important.


Kate & me

Kate - You have taught me to believe that something can happen and work hard to get the results.  It was not long ago that you started culinary school because cooking was something you enjoyed.  Look at you now... I hope all of your culinary dreams come true.  I am amazed by your drive.
Andrea & me
Andrea - You have taught me about individuality and love.  You are an eternal lover.  You love (like the song) truly, madly, and deeply.  You have also always marched to the beat of your own drum.  In a room full of high heals you don't mind being the converse.  I look to you for advice and laughs, love, inspiration, and honesty.

 To all of my high school girlfriends you have helped me become the woman I am today.  Most of all, you have taught me to love me, the me that I am right now, flaws and all and that's just fabulous.  I have learned so much and I look forward to future lessons.  I look forward to more happy times and your strength during times that are tough.  I look forward to weddings, babies and first homes.  I also look forward to finding you in times when I am down.  I can only hope that I have taught you a few things.

To my other girlfriends, family, and loved ones, you are not forgotten and will be blogged about in another installment of "Relationships."

Now playing... Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter

A few of my favorite things...

These are a few of my favorite things...

Wine & Cheese

Lancome mascara

Coach handbags

bareMinerals foundation

Lake Tahoe

All things PINK

Nail polish

Smashbox eyeshadow - Champagne

Tutti Frutti

Chuck Taylors




My Oaklandish hoodie

Hope you are loving as much as I am this Wednesday.

Now playing Hallelujah by The Helio Sequence

MOSAIC Camp - Day 2

Another fun-and-sun-filled day here in Napa, capped with a very powerful evening activity.  After a good night's sleep and french toast for breakfast, we celebrated the differences and diversity of ourselves and the people around us with the diversity festival.  Then it was free time: pool time, cabin time, playing on the ball field.  Dried off and back at the campfire circle as an entire community, all 90+ kids listed all of the things that make us different and unique from each other, everything from skin color and age to height and ability.  Then we noticed something strange: that all these things that we celebrated today, the things that make us different and who we are are the same things that people use to hurt each other and put people down.  The boys and girls learned words for this phenomenon: Stereotype, Prejudice, you ask them I am sure they will know the definitions.

"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences."

Our quote for the day.

After a delicious burger dinner complete with fries, we took part in a eye-opening activity called "Cross the Line."  I won't say too much about it, other than it stirred up a lot of emotion and revealed that all of us have either been hurt or hurt other people with our words or actions.  But knowing that and being aware of it, we can now move forward to change what we do and create peace and love in the world around us.  Tomorrow, we'll start to learn the tools and skills to make it happen.  Campfire ended with joyous singing, hands waving, and big smiles.  There are big things happening here at MOSAIC!

Now playing....What More Can I Say by Jay-Z


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MOSAIC Camp - Day 1

I know I have been a bad blogger, but sometimes life gets in the way.  I am surely going to make a point to blog more often once school is out of session and I feel like I have a little bit more ME time.  This week I find myself on a wonderful camping trip with my students.  This is my third time at MOSAIC Camp and every year things just get better.  The camp is located in Napa, about 1.5 hours from Oakland and different schools from all over the Bay Area are brought together to learn about diversity and tolerance.  The children take part in creative and powerful learning experiences and find themselves eager to go home and teach others the MOSAIC values...

Mutual Respect

Though I would love to post pictures of my students here having a blast, legally I cannot.  So, I will write and take pictures of the lovely and peaceful Enchanted Hills Forrest.  Hopefully, you enjoy the stories you hear and want to keep reading.  But most of all, it is my hope that the lessons my students will learn this week impact you as positively as they will the children and myself.

Upon arriving to camp students are quickly whisked away into MOSAIC land and begin preparations for an exciting, fun, and challenging week.  We, the teachers, are allowed time to set our things down and then we are off as well to join in on welcome activities.  Immediately, students are encouraged to step outside of their comfort zone and meet new folks.  My students are all smiles and I enjoy watching them meet new friends and just be 4th graders.  Often times my students don't have time to just be kids.  Other more pressing things stand in the way; what will I eat or where will I sleep.  Camp is a time for these children to be kids and play and laugh and get dirty.  They meet other kids who are different than they are be it by skin color, sex, height or ability.  The first day of camp marks the beginning of a wonderful journey for these children, one that they will never forget and with lessons they will surely pass on to help create peace and love in the world around us.

And so it begins.....
Now playing... We Shall Be Free by Garth Brooks.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Teachable moments...diversity.

Hello friends, family, and followers! 
Something happened in my classroom earlier this week that I thought was worthy of sharing.

Let me start off by telling you about an article I read over the weekend…

Sunday afternoon, I was sitting by the pool with my fabulous friend and co-worker, Mr. Burbank. 

We were thumbing through California Educator and landed on an article about the use of some homophobic slurs in school.  After reading the article and having a discussion, I felt fairly confident that my students were sensitive enough to each other and their differences that they would never say some of the hurtful things mentioned in the article.  I was feeling pretty happy and confident that I had taught my students well.


One of my students is crying and another one is about to hit him.  They are both yelling about how the other one called them “gay” and said other mean things.  Immediately I was brought to reality.  I had thought that my class was sensitive to diversity and open-minded to people who are different from them…and they weren’t.  At this point, I had all my students put all their materials away and told them that we were going to have a very serious discussion.  I talked to them about the implications of hurtful comments and how a few years back, there was a 5th grade boy who took his own life due to all the mean things that his classmates were saying.  I asked them to imagine what it would be like if the entire class was always saying mean things to them or about them.  After about 10 minutes of me talking one of my students raised her hand.  She said, “I once said something mean to someone on purpose.  I feel really badly about what I said.  I apologized but I feel sorry about it every day.”  She was in tears and feeling very sad about what she had done.  I praised her for her honesty and told her that the best she can do is make better choices from this point forward and to try and make her wrongs right.  Next, another young lady raised her hand and when I called on her she just stood up.  She turned herself around and faced a boy in the class.  She proceeded to say, “________ I have said many hurtful things to you.  I have made fun of you about your height and the fact that you’re bigger than everybody.  I have laughed along with others when they say mean things.  I feel really badly about what I said.  I hope that you will forgive me and accept my apology.  I am really sorry.  I hope you forgive me.  I will never do that again.”  And she sat down.  At this point, I was crying because it was one of the bravest and kindest things I have witnessed as a teacher.  Then, one by one the students started raising their hands and told about mean things they had done or said to this young man and sincerely asking for his forgiveness.  One girl even got up and gave him a tissue and rubbed his back until he was not crying anymore.  It was a truly beautiful event and something I will always remember.  After many hugs and apologies it was time for lunch. 

I couldn’t help but thinking about what had happened and I wanted to extend the lesson into something even more meaningful.  And so, we did the following activity.

I asked all of the kids to write down some of the mean things they had said, heard, or thought about someone.  They were allowed to write down ANYTHING even if it was really mean and nasty or had a bad word.  I really wanted them to get these ugly thoughts out on paper.  They were busily writing for about 10 minutes and I did the same.  When time was up, I asked them to reread their list and circle the one that they found was the most hurtful.  I circled “I hate you.”  A few students shared theirs as well.  Then I said, “Now, when I say begin, I’d like each of you to hold up your paper and rip it into tiny little pieces.  This is our way of tearing those words up and throwing them away.  And when we do that we are deciding to never say these hurtful things again.”  They joyfully tore up their papers and threw their mean comments in the trash.

To close the activity, I passed out one piece of construction paper for each child and wrote his/her name on the top.  We passed these around the room and wrote one nice thing about the student whose name was at the top of the page.  When we finished, each student read what their classmates had to say about them and shared their favorite with the class. 
Here are some of the wonderful things they had to say about each other:

The best artist I know.
A good friend.
Hard working.
The nicest person I know.

A few of my students have said that they put their paper up in their rooms and read it when they are feeling sad.  It is my hope that they will remember this lesson and grow into empathetic and caring young men and women. 

Now playing Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston.