Today is John Green’s Birthday, But This Post is NOT About John Green’s Birthday

Not everything I say is true.  However, everything in this blog is verifiable.

I woke up this morning and did not want to get out of bed.  I scrolled through my Twitter updates and saw that it was John Green’s birthday.  I immediately texted my friend Emily, who also loves John Green.  She replied, “What should we do?”  My first thought was “Crap.  I don’t have good ideas!”  Instead I typed back, “Donate to Kiva?”  It was settled.

I have seen many posts from John Green about Kiva and becoming involved has always been in the back of my mind.  I think I might have first learned about Kiva a few years ago when Natalie Portman was involved.

I went to their website and found it was very user friendly.  I, of course, joined the Nerdfighter team.  I started clicking through the borrowers, reading each story, looking at each face, bursting with possibilities.  How can you select just one?  Are they not all deserving of realizing their dreams through their hard work?  All they need is a small loan to change their lives and that of their families.  My own life experiences pulled me toward the women, especially those who were looking to ensure better futures for their children.

Ultimately, my first (but not last) Kiva loan went to a woman in Kenya.  Her name is Saumu.  She is 41 years old and married with 6 children.  What most impressed me was that 5 of her children still attend school.  When I was working on my Master’s degree, I did a lot of reading about education in Africa and I know how family needs supersede education.  Survival trumps books and chalkboards.  As a teacher that grim reality hits me hard.  People shouldn’t have to choose between the two.

With just a few clicks, I was able to contribute to Saumu’s loan.  Saumu raises hens.  Her loan will be used to buy more hens to raise in her coop in order to increase her income.  Saumu’s write-up said “She is a woman who is hardworking and enterprising, a fighter.  She has always worked, and she is not afraid to take on a challenge.  She says thanks to her husband’s help and her work, she is getting ahead with a lot of effort and sacrifice.”

This summer I spent some time reading about social justice education and social justice writing in the classroom.  I’ve spent some time thinking about ways that they can be incorporated into my classroom.

I think that one thing I would like to do this year is have my students become Kiva lenders.  If every student donated just $1 or even some spare change from their lunch we should be able to make at least 2 loans outright.  And then re-invest of course.  I might also be able to team up with one of our school clubs to raise more money.

Imagine how empowering it would be for my students to know that they were helping someone on another continent change their life.  I think the experience will also open up opportunities for discussions about global issues.  I really don’t know where else this could lead.  They might end up writing to other people about their experience with Kiva and encourage them to lend money.  It might encourage them to go out into their own community and see who needs help.

If we want our children to change the world, we should lead by example.  I can’t wait to share this story with the students I haven’t met yet.

I can’t predict what is going to happen.  But I have a feeling it is going to be amazing.

If you use this link, and make a loan, we will both get to make another $25 loan FOR FREE!!! WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?!?!?

I am really glad today is John Green’s birthday.


aTi – Day 5

Once again, Peter was helping some of us at breakfast.  I asked him a few questions, which made me feel better going into today’s reading.  When our group reconvened,  we work-shopped a final time.  I felt as good as can be expected for someone who does not enjoy reading their work out loud or being in front of large groups of people.  When I had to read, it wasn’t torture.  Sue reminded me that everyone feels that way – the nerves of putting your words out there for others to hear.   I think I was less insane about it than last year.  Progress? Resignation?

My favorite part of showcase day is seeing what everyone else has been doing.  I know my roommates had been coming in after 11pm from oil painting!!  One art teacher showed me pictures of her print making work in progress which really helped me understand the process.

My least favorite part of showcase day is the flat tire I found waiting for me at the parking lot.  But that, my friends, is par for the course.

Last year at aTi was the first time I had written non-academic pieces since middle school.  This summer I thought maybe the proverbial well had dried up and I would have nothing to write about.  But that didn’t happen.  Thanks Peter! Take that self-doubt.

Before I left for aTi, while I was buying travel-size shampoo and the like, I ran into a co-worker in Target.  She questioned why I would choose to spend my summer writing when other peers are sleeping until noon.  She asked me if I like it.  My hesitation could definitely be taken as a negative response, but it’s not that easy.  I don’t think I could ever say writing (especially poetry) is this glorious process. Contrary to some people’s belief, gummy bears and rainbows don’t shoot out of my pen. It is frustrating and sometimes seems impossible.  But towards the end there is a different feeling.  I think relief is the best way to describe how I feel – to have made something and let it breathe.  Although if you ask me later, I might offer a contradictory response.

aTi – Day 4

When I get overwhelmed, I become paralyzed and accomplish nothing much at all.  Welcome to The Downward Spiral.  I just hit a wall today.  My classmates weren’t overly critical.  My poem wasn’t a complete bomb, but I just didn’t know where to go with it.  The fact that the showcase was in less than 24 hours didn’t help matters either.  Whenever I tried, nothing was happening.  I sat down at a table.  I spread my papers over its surface.  I looked at them.  I took a walk.  I made no progress.  It is incredibly frustrating.  I was, however, able to help like 3 other people with their writing.  I knew I had addressed some of the weaker parts of the work, but that created other issues.  Conclusion = revision leads to  more revision.

Hoping some retail therapy would distract me I headed to Smithville.  It was quaint, but I was too far gone.  Dinner cheered me up a bit.  I regrouped and Peter offered to help a few of us in the lounge.

When Peter re-read my poem he basically said good job following the prompt instructions, now break away from them.  Le sigh.  Those were not the words I wanted to hear.  When I first read the piece out loud in class, Peter had counted and commented that my use of instructions created a bond with my reader.  I wanted to hold on to that.  If I removed it, I felt like I had nothing.  He also suggested that I needed to focus on the heart of the poem and remove the scaffolding to find a speaker.  I sat there in the uncomfortable chair, stunned.  Peter asked me a simple question.  My response evolved into the piece’s title.  And that enabled me to see the poem differently.  Without this session, I would have been a mess (or maybe just more of a mess).  I think it allowed my poem to grow from mildly amusing to something more.  I almost used the word powerful, but I’m not sure it is completely accurate.


aTi – Day 3

This morning we trekked to the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.  I am not one to voluntarily subject myself to heat or bugs.  However, this was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done.  At the beginning of our visit, we got out to see all these crows and noticed that there was a juvenile night heron.  One of my favorite short stories is about a  white heron, so I liked being able to see a relative in person.  I learned a lot of new terms like “kettling” used to describe how the birds fly in a circular pattern and “mobbing” used to describe when smaller birds chase larger birds.  I also saw birds I never knew existed, like the glossy ibis and the tern.  The terns were my favorite (they will come up again in my writing).  I never would have independently said “Hmmmm today I think I will go bird-watch at a refuge,”  but I am glad I had the opportunity to do so.  It is something that I would do again (from a nicely air conditioned vehicle).

Peter let us write for an extended time this afternoon.  I needed that.  I locked myself in my room and wrote 3 different poems (well rough drafts at least).  After dinner Peter offered to meet us in our regular room for conferencing during studio time.  I appreciated this, because our class is kind of big in numbers so getting more extensive feedback was invaluable.  He showed me some poems that might help me in my next round of revision.  He pointed out rhythms I hadn’t noticed I created to show me that I needed to sustain it throughout for the reader.  He called me out when my language wasn’t being consistent with the experience.  I needed to be more “birdy”.  In another piece, he helped me compress the language, moving closer to the clarity of my idea.  All of these things helped me move my writing forward.

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aTi – Day 2

Today’s free-write involved us writing about our own strangeness, which I found much easier than yesterday’s.  I still find it difficult to write, but it is something my students have come to enjoy so I use it in class daily.

Tonight we visited the Noyes Museum in Oceanville.  Our official assignment from Peter was to pay attention to the Toylanders exhibit.  My favorite part, however, was the work presented in Stan Sperlak’s Into the Night.  His ability to capture the vibrancy and nuances found in the marshes of his pastels was amazing.  The Toylanders pieces were also of interest.  I liked one because its title involved the phrase “cerulean blue” and it is my favorite shade of blue (which is really just a random tidbit about me than anything else).  The visit was a great opportunity to not only see the art, but to spend time talking to other attendees and instructors.

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