Family Ties ~ The French ConnectionAt least 30 summers ago, there was a Fourth of July French family reunion and picnic at the home of one of my cousins. A favorite cousin, one I had not seen in many years, was there with her three beautiful young daughters.
The day was a hot one. For some reason, I asked the girls if they wanted me to put their hair up in French braids. One by one, each sat on the floor before me as I brushed and braided each one's hair. That is when I first got to know and to love my first cousin once removed named Annie French. I think she was about eight years old at the time.
Unfortunately, I didn't see a lot of my cousin and her daughters while the girls were growing up. The next time I spent any time at all with them was twelve years ago when we gathered in Cousin Mary's hospital room just before she passed away from ovarian cancer which was discovered very shortly before her death. The girls were still so sweet, so beautiful, and so very young to lose their wonderful mother. They were barely out of their teens and into their twenties. My heart broke for them.
I knew Mary had given them a wonderful foundation. She, a single mom, had raised them to be strong, independent, yet loving, and caring young women. She also raised them to be strong in the faith that she had taught them.
Annie, the one I call Mary's mini me, always wears a glorious, winning smile just like her sweet mama did. After her mother's death, Annie went on to graduate from college and to travel around the world as a single woman. Most of her trips were mission trips. She journeyed to Peru to take some seminary classes from a branch of the Calvary Chapel Bible College in Peru. There, she met her future husband.
Thanks to Facebook, I have been able to follow her journey from afar. I saw the photos of the beautiful bride that Annie was when she married her handsome smiling groom, a native of Peru, in Peru. I read of their missionary work in Peru and in Costa Rica. I was thrilled to see photos of the beautiful daughters they soon had. I admired Annie's handiwork of sewing that she did for her husband, her home, and her daughters. I was impressed by Darwin's work in the the ministry.
A Springtime Meeting ~ An Answer to Prayer
The French Connection ~ A New American Citizen
|Darwin and Sally photographed in our classroom setting: the kitchen table.|
|The French Connection: Annie, Darwin, & daughters with Sally|
Interestingly, I would notice that every Monday morning when I came into the classroom, there would be yellow dust on the desks at the front of the room, the chalkboard, and on my desk and podium. I would dust it off and wonder how the chalk dust was getting all over the place. Then, it dawned on me that I didn't use yellow chalk. The concentration of dust was greatest under a very large heating duct in the ceiling that was located just over where I would stand to teach. I was becoming suspicious of the vent.
exporters. These include: Diamet, 2-mercapatobenzothiazole, (2-MBT), both of
which are known sensitizers, as well as polyacrylic acid copolymer, polyethylene
dichloride, and irritants potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, and phosphoric
acid. The other concern in this building is potential bioaerosol exposures related to
the use of evaporative cooling, and duct board duct work.
The next school year, I was hired to teach English and English as a Second Language at the high school level. I went on to earn a M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language. Eight years later, I left the classroom and ended my career by writing curriculum and developing a program where teachers could earn an endorsement in Teaching the Linguistically Different (ESL) at Colorado State University-Pueblo. I also taught future teachers of ESL and Secondary English at CSU-P. I learned a lot my first year of teaching. Mostly, I learned that I love to teach and nothing would stop me from pursuing my chosen career.
A few words that describe me during the last few months of my life are:
- going in too many directions
The day at the gardens was a special outing for us. Thankfully, we had a day together in sun drinking in the waning days of fall.
Missing the classroom begins when the shelves are stocked with new school supplies.
Missing the Classroom
|Off to College|
|Earning a BS in Business Administration|
|Sally & one of her favorite professors|
Dr. M. Barber
We need to downsize. The task of going through a lifetime of things stored in our basement seems a bit daunting at the moment. We decided that the only way we can possibly accomplish the task of moving and downsizing is to do it in stages.
|Dixie holds two books.|
Are we done with these yet?
Yes, for sure toss No Child Left Behind!
We are happy to get rid of that for sure.
Back in January of 2004, I had been hired to write the curriculum and develop the program that would allow teachers and pre-teachers to add an endorsement to teach the Linguistically Diverse (ELL - English Language Learners) Education Endorsement to an existing teacher license. I left the public classroom at that time. After I retired, I met Dixie again. We taught together when I took a semester position to teach reading at an elementary school where Dixie was teaching ESL. We became fast friends and have remained so ever since. I recommended she be hired after she retired to help teach the same course I was teaching to foreign students learning English at CSU-Pueblo during the second semester of 2011.
I love Dixie's approach to most things in life. She is very practical and level-headed. She is great sounding board for me. She also is a faithful friend. She has long time friends all over the country. Once you are her friend, she is there for you forever. I don't think I could have accomplished much of this move, been able to survive the death of my daughter, or been able to cope with my health issues without friends such as Dixie. Thanks, Dixie!
|Some professional files etc.|
Move the things we have left from the basement to a storage unit.
When such terrible tragedy occurs while one is teaching, the role of being a teacher takes over. I found that I could not allow myself the luxury of fully experiencing my own shock and grief during either event because I had a responsibility to help my students process and understand what was happening without causing them to become even more confused and afraid because of the way I presented myself. I had to be strong for them. I had to reassure them that we were safe. I had to make sure that they knew that I would be in charge of our little corner of the world while I tried to help them make sense of what was happening. I could not give in to panic. I could not cry uncontrollably. I could not go into some sort of stunned shutdown. I had to manage my classroom and look after my students.
I will never forget the morning of 9/11. I was at the front of my classroom standing at my podium taking roll for my first period class when I notice a colleague who did not teach first period standing outside my row of classroom windows that looked out into the library. She seemed terribly upset, shaken. She was the drama teacher afterall, but her distress seemed extreme and quite real. I walked to the door at the back of the room and quietly asked if something was wrong. "Some SOBs have just flown air planes into the Twin Towers in New York City," she said. "Does your television work? Turn it on. We're under attack."
"I can't just go back in there and turn on my t.v. and watch New York being attacked by air," I said. "Find out if this is true and what is really happening. Surely, we will hear from administration if this is true. Surely, they will come and tell us what is happening." "Don't be too sure," she said. "You know how teachers are the last to know."
True. We were the last to find out what was really going on. Within no time at all, parents were showing up at the school and taking their kids home. I had turned the television on by then to try and get some news. I had decided that it was better that the students heard what was going on from a news source in an environment where I had some control. I would be able to help them make sense of what was happening. I asked the students to get out their journals to write about their emotions. I told them to write down their questions that still lingered as to what was really happening. I said it was important to record what they were seeing happen. I encouraged them to write their emotions out. I offered to read and discuss privately what they had written. It seemed to be the only thing I could do that would help the students make sense of a world that had suddenly exploded before their eyes. Perhaps, my approach was wrong. I tried to keep communication open. I tried to reassure. I tried to comfort. I was not ever told how to hand such a thing in any of my teacher ed classes.
I had not taken into account that our principal would finally come on the P.A. with the following announcement: "Teachers, you are to turn off your televisions. You are to follow the lesson plans you have for today. Any news that needs to be relayed to you and your students will come from the office. Do not excuse any student from your classroom unless they are sent for by the office. Do not allow your students to leave your classroom."
He was a former social studies teacher. Somehow, he didn't think it was appropriate that we watch history being made during class time. Somehow, he didn't think the delivery of the curriculum should be adjusted to use the current event topic as a writing prompt. We were to stay on task. There would be no television watching in his school.
Ironically, in my tenth grade English classes we were to read, Contents of a Dead Man's Pockets that day. (Click on the story title to read the story yourself.) The story is about a man who goes after a piece of paper that flies out of a window in a skyscraper. He actually goes out on the ledge of the building to go after the paper.
So, while New York City was under attack, and while the people of New York were facing untold horror, we read about a guy stuck on a ledge of a skyscraper. I don't know when a story seemed more real than the one we read that day. I don't know when a story generated more discussion that seemed to really fit what was going on around us.
It is ironic to me that I now see much on the internet on how teach today's students about 9/11. I am not sure that even now after all these ten years I know that how I handled what I taught my students about what was happening before our very eyes was appropriate. I don't know that I am able to make sense of what happened that day any better today than I could then. I only know that I wanted my students to know that when it appears the world is falling down around you, it is important to pull together, talk to each other, support each other, and to help each other feel less afraid.
We all lost a measure of innocence that day. Life as we knew it changed. The unthinkable had happened. I remembered the bomb drills that we had practiced when I was a child in elementary school during the early 50's when we hid under our desks, or lined up in the hallway with our head tucked between our knees. Those fears of being bombed had been left behind in the 50's. Now, in the first year of the new millennium, I found myself teaching in a classroom while watching air planes attack the center of New York City. I still am not sure any of us can ever teach others what that meant to us personally or to our nation.
- We said good-bye to my dear friend Dixie who substituted for the regular instructor for Level Two students with a party and a presentation of the life maps we made in class.
|Colorful Life Maps|
|Dixie surrounded by her students|
- We never pass up an opportunity for a photo op
|Some of the girls|
|A couple of the guys|
- I gave an end of the semester brunch at my house
|Our faithful volunteer tutors|
Walter and Alda
|A fine young man|
|Another fine student|
|My guests brought flowers and other gifts|
to grace the table
|Two darling cats|
- We gathered one last time as a class the day before the final. Everyone was nervous about taking the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) the next day. We all were also very sad as some of us tearfully said good-bye to each other. Those of us there, gathered for one last photo together. Sadly, one important class member was not there that day.
|My students and I|
Spring Semester 2011
|Some of our wonderful international students|
|Students gather in the International Office|
to celebrate graduation
I made the decision to go back to work because:
- The job was part time. In truth, I taught four straight hours a day. With preparation time and etc., I worked five or six hours a day.
- I missed working with students. This is true I did. I have loved working with students.
- I missed working with colleagues. This is also true. I have loved working with my colleagues.
- I wanted to stay busy during the winter. I've kept busy and that is a good thing.
- I wanted to make some extra money. Adjunct professors are paid ridiculously low salaries. It really was not financially worth my time to work for what I was paid. (I had to hire a housekeeper to keep up with the house while I was working. Her hourly rate of pay is higher than mine!)
So, once I heard about the tsunami warning, I immediately went to my Hawaiian blogger friend Kay's blog (click to link to her blog) to see if she was ok. She is such a dear person. I read her blog daily, and, even though we have never really 'met,' I've really grown fond her and her husband and her mother. Her mother, originally from Japan, lives with her. They still have family in Japan. Kay is always so kind in her words when she comments on my blog posts. Yes, I think, it is amazing. I am connected to people a great distance from me because of my blog, and I am genuinely concerned about their safety and well being.
I wasn't able to see a posting by Kay until later in the morning on Friday, March 1l. While I was work at the University and on a break, I finally was able to read her most recent blog assuring us that they were safe.
Being able to read a blog on my iPhone also amazes me. Technology has made my world not only bigger but also smaller. It is bigger because I have access to people I never would have met otherwise. It is smaller because the miles that separate us mean little in cyber land.
While I was reading about Kay's situation, I was still worried about the family of one of my student Junichi who is from Tokyo, Japan. He had not yet come to class at 9:30 on Friday. Junichi never misses class, and he usually the second to arrive in the morning. We were all concerned. Was he trying to reach his family? Were they ok? Had they suffered any kind of harm or damage? Yes, because I teach international students, my world is smaller. After all the years that I have been teaching second language learners, I am connected to students who come from many countries and speak many languages.
|Sally with Junichi using iPhone to photograph cake|
Woo Huck on far left
I can't even imagine what she saw on her long journey. I can't even imagine the fear that must have gone through her mind. I wonder if she worried how she would find her home once she reached it. I keep thinking of this woman and wonder at her stamina and determination. I feel privileged to be able to teach her son. He works hard. He studies hard. He is a son for whom she can feel great pride. I am grateful that his life has not been touched by the loss of his mother while he is in the United States. I am sure he must be devastated as he sees the photos coming out of Japan. He will need a great deal of support from others in the days and weeks ahead.
article about him and other Libyan students in the United States in The Denver Post. In fact, I was very shocked when I saw our former student's picture posted in the newspaper. (Photo from The Denver Post)
Yes, indeed, my world in smaller and much wider because I teach. It is also much enriched with friendships that span many countries and many languages. My heart is open to the struggles that other nations and their people are going through. I have worked with, taught, grown to respect, and to care deeply about their youth. My mind is broader, and my soul is enriched because I understand how connected we all are no matter what we believe or what languages we speak.
I am grateful to be part of a profession that allows me to link my life to lives of so many who have come from all over the world. It has been a blessing. My life is much richer because my path has crossed the path of many students from many lands. These students have touched my heart as we labor together in the classroom. Their families are never far from their minds. For that reason, their struggles, their heartbreaks, and the devastation that touches those they left behind at home touch my heart deeply.