Doing Little Things With Great Love

This week I am bubbling over with joy and pride!

I am also wiped out with exhaustion.

In June my principal asked me what charity I thought would be a good one for the children of St. Francis of Assisi School (a charity case itself!) to support; one they could relate to.  I can only say now, in hind-sight, that it was God who made me say the first thing that popped into my thoughts:  Fr. Mark Mlay’s orphanage in Tanzania.  At first I didn’t know why that was the first name I thought of, but now I do.  God is like that for us.  We can’t see God’s long-range plan, but we don’t need to.  That is where faith and trust come in.  Always!

After watching an adorable video on the website, I pitched the orphanage to my principal who simple shrugged with complete surrender and said, “I think it is an obvious fit.  This year’s charity is Fr. Mark’s orphanage.”

It’s been several years since I’ve seen Fr. Mark and worked with him in Florida.  I admit that I didn’t really know that much about the school and the religious order of sisters (Adorer Missionary Sisters of the Poor) he founded, but I had heard about the good work he had begun from a dear friend who actually visited the school’s site while in Africa (thanks, Glynda!).  So, I reached out, sent an e-mail, and two days later (after pulling off the side of Highway 84) spent over 30 minutes talking with this gentle priest about his work in Tanzania, and mine in New Mexico.  I told him about our school and our plan to raise money for his orphanage.  He was humbled and filled with gratitude, as is his nature.

How are the children of St. Francis supporting orphans in Tanzania?  Well, every Thursday is “Dress Down for a Cause” day.  Students can bring in a dollar and wear something other than their uniforms.  Last year we sent our donations to Food for the Poor to help build schools and clinics in Haiti. This year our collection will go to the Sisters in Tanzania who run Fr. Mark’s school and clinic.  Their goal is to help lift 600 orphans out of the cycle of poverty through education.  They currently support 140 children with another 40 expected in the coming year.  It is estimated that there are 3.3 million orphans in Tanzania alone.  This is mostly due to HIV and AIDS.  Earlier this year they opened a High School and now need to build more dormitories for all of the newly accepted children and teens.

Although I knew Fr. Mark would welcome our meager support, I was unprepared for what happened next.  My principal asked me if I thought Fr. Mark would come to New Mexico for a visit with our students.  I said I’d ask, and he said yes.  Just like that.  Wow!

So, Tuesday (9-27-16) afternoon at dismissal I jumped in my car, and made the 3 1/2 hour drive down to Albuquerque to pick up Fr. Mark.  After a late night dinner at Jinja’s in Santa Fe (THANKS, MICKY!!!) we drove to Lumberton, avoiding deer, elk and (thank goodness!) skunks along the way.  The next day Fr. Mark was welcomed into our school with a Cowboy Breakfast:  eggs, pancakes, and sausage.  [Of course, I had my homemade yogurt and fruit; you know what a hippie I am.  Not a Cowboy bone in this ol’ body!]

After prayer and Fr. Mark’s PowerPoint presentation on his vision, his ministry, the plight of the orphans in Tanzania, and how our donations help, my group of 1st & 2nd graders took him on a tour of our school, playground, church, and my garden.  Since I had shared with the kids my garden and my “magic” purple beans 3 weeks ago, the kids were very excited to introduce Fr. Mark to this amazing “delicacy!”  I introduced him to Frank, the foreman of our own newly funded project:  New volunteer-teacher housing.  (They talked shop while I attended to some disciplinary problems with 3 of my students!)

Back to the Main Building, where I let Fr. Mark go to explore our grounds & visit with the other classes at his own pace.  Thanks to Ms. Maria Montoya, our cook, Fr. Mark was introduced to Apache-style Fry-bread for lunch!  YUM!!!  On our trip back to Dulce/Lumberton from the airport, Fr. Mark asked me about cultural/regional foods and I talked about the varieties of Fry-bread amongst the Native Peoples.  Ms. Maria’s is made of flour, water, and a bit of yeast.  It isn’t often that we allow “fried” anything at school, so we all indulged in, & enjoyed this staple food of the Southwest alongside a hearty beef stew!

After lunch Fr. Mark enjoyed some meditative time alone in our beautiful 100 year-old church.  How I wish I could have joined him for a few moments of peace.  In the afternoon we were able to celebrate mass (we have no priest!), and then afterwards we celebrated Fr. Mark’s visit back in the cafeteria with juice, cake, and cookies.  More YUM thanks to Ms. Maria (love her!)!!!!

How I wish Fr. Mark’s visit could have been longer.  I would have loved showing him more of the beauty of this landscape, the Jicarilla Apache Nation and her people, and some of the unique regional tourist attractions, but…..  His trip was short for many reasons outside my control.

Thanks, Fr. Mark for the visit to our little community!  Thanks for the important work that you do!  And thank you, God for creating in Fr. Mark’s heart a place where your love may grow and grow!

Yep.  Bubbling over with joy, and pride in the students of my school.

I recently led a morning meditation with our school where I mentioned how St. Teresa of Kolkata used to say, “Not everyone can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.  Fr. Mark is certainly doing great things, and with much love.  The students of St. Francis of Assisi School are doing something small, but, OH, with such great love!

My only disappointment?  Realizing after he left that we took no pictures.  I suppose I was focused more on him, the kids, and enjoying his visit to remember technology or selfies.  Oh, well….  It is all lovingly etched in my memory!

 

 

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My Black Children’s Lives Matter

I am a white woman with two grown black children, and I am genuinely afraid for their lives.

The death, violence, and hatred that we have all witnessed this week should concern us all.  As President Obama stated with such great emotional restraint last Wednesday, “These are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”   The events of this week of violence in America concerns me deeply.  More deeply than I have ever acknowledged before.  And, as Obama said, these events should concern and trouble us all.

No mother or father (black, brown or white) should have to have “the conversation” with their black son to “be careful when (not if, but WHEN!) you’re stopped by the police.  Why?  Because you’re a black man in America.”  [This “conversation” has been happening for several generations.  Watch this emotional video.]  My heart is broken and I am weary of the racial injustice that is woven into the fabric of this nation.  As I stated in an earlier piece:

[As a nation and as a people] we have learned precious little.  Not only do we still nurture hatred, suspicion, and bigotry in our children, we also continue to support and sanction state sponsored violence and oppression against targeted groups and minorities.  What the hell are we afraid of?

I will not counter the #BlackLivesMatter movement with that petty, insensitive and ignorant retort uttered by so many white people who feel uncomfortable discussing racism in the shadow of yet another murdered black man.  Feel the discomfort.  Be appalled and horrified by the violence our nation continues to suffer because of poverty, bigotry, and oppression.  And please, I beg you, stop contributing to it with hateful, inflammatory speech and insensitive remarks based on nothing but fear and ignorance.

This world seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket and I am feeling ashamed to be a part of a race that causes so much division, fear, bigotry, racism, and poverty in our world.  I am embarrassed by all of the ignorant comments on social media that clearly come from the narrow perspective of white privilege.  If you have the courage, I invite you to stop and consider what it is like to be a minority in America.  Everyday of your life.  Everywhere you go.  With nowhere to hide from those who fear you based solely on the color of your skin.  I have tried to imagine this and have fallen short, even though I have heard and experienced the hatred and prejudice of white people while out in public with my black children.  It hurts.  A lot.  Imagine being hurt every day of your life for no other reason except that you are black, and devalued by society.

I cannot speak to pain of racism and oppression in this country as my own children surely can.  I cannot speak to the feelings of cultural duplicity that they must feel or the tension of having one foot in one world and one foot in another.  I cannot possibly imagine what it is like to be a black man or a black woman in this country.  Or can I?  I am, after all, a member of the human race, am I not?  My ability to empathize with someone else’s pain is not limited by the color of my skin.  When I read reports and commentary on racism, or when I watch the news in horror, do I not feel a deep frustration at the unjust system that fuels hatred and fear, and targets black men in this country?  Of course I do, and so should every other human being.

But they don’t.

The deaths/murders of two more innocent black men at the hands of white police officers this week has left me feeling inconsolable.  The ambush on police officers in Dallas leaves me feeling hopeless.  The relentless violence that engulfs our nation leaves me feeling deeply troubled, sad and weary.  If we continue to meet violence with more violence, and hate with more hate (MLK speech on “Loving Your Enemies.”), then is it any wonder that this country remains racially polarized so many generations after the end of slavery?  As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

The whole issue of racism in this country has me questioning everything.  Again.  After all these years I still do not understand it.  I do not understand how civilized people can continue to cling to a system that is complicit with racism and bigotry in an age that is groaning toward a more progressive and egalitarian society that embraces and celebrates diversity in all of its forms.

I just don’t understand anymore, and I’m afraid for our children and their future.

Grant us peace, Lord, for we are in desperate need.

A Profile of Racism In Our World

 

I began this draft back in February of 2016 when I first read Kristian Davis Bailey’s account of his horrifying experience in Israel and the West Bank.  I’ve visited this draft several times since, but was never satisfied with it overall.  That is until I awoke this morning to the news of yet another mass shooting/killing in Orlando, Florida, in the “good ol’ us of a.”  Again, I am without words to describe my horror, sadness and grief.  And, saying the obvious, “my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families” sounds hollow and small.

How can I relate?  How can anyone relate?  Only those who have lost loved ones to hatred, violence, abuse, and death can relate.  I only know that today I cried tears of compassion and solidarity with the many who mourn the loss of their loved ones, their ideals, their innocence, their joy, and their belief in a world where peace and love always conquer violence, hatred and fear.  I still believe in these values and truths, but today…. I’m a bit shaken.

 

At the risk of offending just about everyone I know, I want to talk about the evils of racism {and, after today’s terror in Orlando, we can add to racism:  intolerance, hatred, homophobia, and bigotry in all its forms}.  Not as a white woman, or as a white woman with children of color, or as any label I may be stuck with, but simply as a member of humanity.  Quite honestly I have always been a bit naïve and/or idealistic when it comes to relationships, so I’ve never understood how societies continue to justify racist and unjust laws, racial profiling, and blatantly racist and ignorant speech.  What disturbs me even more is how these advanced and so-called “civilized” countries turn a blind eye to the poverty and violence such racist behavior perpetuates upon targeted groups.

Again, given the tragic events in Orlando today, I am horrified at the numbers.  The US leads the world in the number of mass shootings.  We have more guns in circulation than any other country, and there are about 40 million more guns than people in America.  Appalling!  I do not, nor will I ever, own a gun.  That means that most gun owners in the US must own more than quite a few guns one gun.  Personally, I do not feel “safe.”
Back in February I read an article on Color Lines by activist and journalist Kristian Davis Bailey.  He was on his way to a conference in the West Bank where he was one of the featured speakers on Palestinian and Black solidarity.  Of course he was racially and politically profiled and treated so horribly and unjustly that I simply have no words to add to his own detailed report on the events that followed.  SeriouslyClick the link and read the article. In Kristian’s own words he has “no illusion about what occurred” to him at the hands of Israeli border agents, nor do I.

I am baffled and deeply saddened by the obvious take-away here:  In the last 100 years (and more!) we have learned precious little.  Not only do we still nurture hatred, suspicion, and bigotry in our children, we also continue to support and sanction state sponsored violence and repression against targeted groups and minorities.  What the hell are we afraid of?  Peace?  Love?  The possibility of authentic joy?

I know that poverty is at the very heart of the violence and hatred we see all across the globe, but I’m naïve & idealistic.  I believe that there is more than just one person in every nook and cranny of the world that has had enough.  I want to believe that we can change this culture of violence & hatred into a culture of peace & love.  I want to believe this with all my heart, but today…  I am shaken.  I am truly shaken.

Discovering My Swedish Heritage

This week at St. Francis School we will participate in a new school-wide tradition (this is the 4th year) called “International Day.”  Don’t ask me why it is done in April (Poetry Month) instead of in October (United Nations Day, the 24th).  Suffice it to say that our boss faced a possible insurrection when she wanted to do it in March during the same week we had Book Fair, Bingo, and Parent/Teacher Conferences. How ironic that International Day of Happiness was on the 20th that same week.  We were NOT happy!  Teacher riot averted, we negotiated for April 27th, which currently has no UN supported international observance.  I am, however, chuckling to myself about April 28th:  World Day for Safety and Health in the Workplace. This year’s theme? WORKPLACE STRESS!!!!!

Back to International Day at St. Francis….

The upper grades (5-8) have to do individual projects and present their chosen country in the afternoon.  The K-4 Unit gets to pick a country and the whole class participates and has their presentation in the morning.  I gave my class three options to vote on:  Morocco, Madagascar, and Sweden.  They picked Sweden.  I must say it’s been fun sharing my Swedish heritage with my 1st graders, but something else has happened that I did not expect.  Along the way I’ve (not surprisingly) made a few discoveries about the country itself, but what I wasn’t expecting was the discovery of an intimate and personal connection with my Swedish roots.

I often joke that “I’m 50% Swedish, 25% Italian, and 25% Irish, but the Italian just takes over!”  That’s true, but!  When researching information that I could transpose into cross-curricular lessons, worksheets, and activities for a group of mostly Apache 1st graders, I started to make connections that gave me a bit of insight into my own personality and tendencies.  One of my other jokes is that I have this “latent Lutheran gene” in me that makes me obsess about paper-work and organization.  Soooo true!!!

So my “ah-ha!” moment came while reading about the Swedish temperament on a site that helps train and educate global businesses on culture and etiquette in other countries.  It says that most Swedes find boasting distasteful, and are often soft-spoken.  I have always had trouble with compliments and do not like to call attention to myself.  When I do a good job, it’s enough that I know it and others benefit from it.  I don’t always want recognition; a simple “Thank-you” is enough.  Which leads to the next eye-opener:  TackEven when you are thanking someone for something, they may thank you for thanking them!

When invited to someone’s house for a party or for dinner I never go empty-handed.  Under “Etiquette” on this same site it mentions gift-giving not just for the hostess, but for any children that may live there, too.  When I travel to visit my brother & sister-in-law I always bring something homemade and maybe something special from Trader Joe’s.  They told me that I didn’t have to feel obligated to bring anything, but I said, “It’s my nature.”  Well, now I can see that it truly is my nature!  Yes, it’s always fun to discover something that’s always been there waiting to be uncovered.

My students are excited about Sweden and what we have planned, and so am I.  We are building a Viking Ship, the boys made Viking Helmets, the girls made Swedish Bonnets.  I’ve made little red vests for the boys, blue skirts for the girls, and the girls decorated little white aprons.  Tomorrow we’ll make Fresh Pickled Cucumbers in Science class.  Also on the menu for our little Smorgasbord are Swedish Meatballs, mushrooms, onions, Swedish Pancakes (Plattar) with Lingonberries, and Christmas Crullers.  To top off our virtual tour of Sweden my students will be performing two folk dances they’ve been practicing.  They will look so cute in their little outfits!  I’ll post pictures next week!

One last discovery….

Since I cut my cable over 10 years ago I’ve been out of the TV-Land loop to say the least.  I honestly don’t know half the celebrities I see on the covers of the magazines at the check-out lines.  While google-searching for authentic (that means NO HORNS!!!) Viking helmets I kept seeing pictures of Vikings from a “new” series on the History Channel.

I simply must get caught up on the last 4 Seasons!

 

Triduum Reflections 2016

Everywhere across the globe Christian communities are participating in Holy Week traditions. Here in “mission country” St. Francis of Assisi School in Lumberton has a highly visible tradition: The Stations Walk. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but having just returned from this 3-mile walk with Jesus I must say that I was moved and inspired.

Jesus may not have walked 3 miles to Calvary (it was less than a mile by some accounts, and just a fraction of a mile by others), but this 3 miles is significant to this community.  It became significant to me today.  St. Francis Church is in Lumberton, off the Reservation, while our sister parish, St. Patrick’s, in on the Reservation in Dulce.  The praying of the Stations of the Cross begins inside St. Francis Church and ends inside St. Patrick’s with a 15th Station, The Empty Tomb.  Between the two Catholic churches we stop along the way to reflect on each of the 14 Stations.

Along the way I tried to help keep people off the road and kids out of arroyos and ditches.  I also tried to remain reflective and prayerful.  Difficult!  I was reminded of the marches with the CIW that I participated in while in Florida; walk at a slow pace, three-by-three, and pass out water and snacks along the way.  God bless the wise elders in our  Dulce community for the donated water, juice & oranges at Stations 4 & 8!

Our Jesus was rather fit this year.  By the 3rd station many of us were lagging far behind, huffing and puffing, and ready to jump in the “rescue Jeep” leading our procession.  At Jesus’ pace we would have reached St. Patrick’s by 10:30 instead of the estimated noon-time arrival!  With a gentle suggestion, a bit of pace-correction, and a firm teacher gaze, we soon settled into a more prayerful pace that suited the older participants, one pregnant mother, and several families pushing strollers.

Once I was able to breath again, relax, and observe (I’m getting over a severe sinus infection this week), I noticed amazing things on this journey.  First I found myself toward the end of the 130+ procession imagining myself actually following Jesus on his way to Calvary.  That made me want to cry.  Then, just as we began to climb a slight incline, I realized that I couldn’t see Jesus, but I could see the tip of the cross.  I found myself calling to children who were straying off the path “Keep your eyes on Jesus!  Stay on the path!”  Soon I found that I couldn’t see Jesus or the cross.  At first I felt a sense of loss and even fear, but then I realized something amazing.  We were all moving forward and following Jesus.  I reflected on my own life and what happens so often in everyone’s life.  How often do we lose sight of Jesus?  How often do we lose our way?  How often do we feel lost and alone?  The best thing to do is to find people who are on the path following Jesus, and follow them.  When I feel lost and struggling with my faith and hope, I should always look to those whose faith is strong for help.  Eventually I will find Jesus again and be given strength for the journey.

Another gift I found on this Stations Walk is a woman named Dulley!  She subbed for me so that I could be with my family when my grandmother died in late January.  I love this Apache woman!  What an amazing spirit!  She walked the whole way & brought the oranges earlier on our walk today.  When nature called, she stopped at a gas station in Dulce and picked up a mother and her two young girls from Boulder, CO who were just passing through.  Several others in Dulce joined our procession around the 12th Station.  Again I imagined what Jesus’ actual journey must have been like.  I imagined those who knew Jesus and who had followed him for the last three years following him on this last journey.  Then I imagined people who didn’t know Jesus asking “What’s happening here?”  During the last 3 Stations I saw several faces that I had not seen before; rather like the workers in the vineyards.  It doesn’t matter when we arrive to help, we all are called to do the Father’s work, and we are all invited to share in God’s love.

So, in the end I thoroughly enjoyed the 3-mile Stations Walk followed by this evening’s Holy Thursday Mass.  I think the key to any of the Triduum traditions is to cast yourself in the role of someone who may have actually been there.  Mary Magdalene is my patron saint.  At the end of mass this evening I found myself in church, almost alone, feeling very much like Mary Magdalene at the tomb; lost and uncertain.  As the Gomez family was locking the Sacristy and getting ready to leave, I asked if they were locking up the church or coming back later to lock up.  I said that I would go home if they were locking up, but if nobody was staying with Jesus, I didn’t want to leave.  This was a new feeling.  It was decided to lock up the church, go home and prepare for Good Friday.  I truly felt like Mary Magdalene without her Lord.

This was by far one of the richest Holy Thursday I have ever experienced.

Thank God!

Discerning Again: How I’ve Come to Dread “Discernment”

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve been otherwise occupied by a number of things. To say the least.

The first semester here at school was extremely busy and the work spilled over into my “free time” all the time. If we volunteers weren’t teaching, grading, or getting lesson plans together, we were busy helping with fundraisers, sitting in meetings, or conducting parent-teacher conferences. All part of teaching, but a little over the top.  So, Christmas break was indeed a welcome break.  And then there was the depression that set in somewhere around Thanksgiving, followed by feelings of regret, stupidity, and the usual self-pity party (I haven’t thrown a party like that in years!).  Then my grandmother died January 19th.  So I went home to mourn with my family, clear my head and do some discerning.

Discernment.  I’ve developed a distinct distaste for that word.  I’m not too crazy about the process, either.  It’s hard work, it takes time, and it requires that I examine my inner self, accept it, and then make choices that will change my life.

In 2008 I entered a period of religious discernment.  It led me to the Adrian Dominicans and, after a year of formation, I became an Associate in November of 2009.  This process was emotional, but in the end I enjoyed the process and learned a lot about myself.  It also helped me to deepen my prayer-life, and in turn, my trust in God’s will for me.  In the fall of 2014 I once again entered a period of discernment.  This time the process was not what I would call enjoyable; in fact it was pretty painful.  In the end I totally uprooted myself and moved to New Mexico to serve the Jicarilla Apache children of Dulce.  The kids are great!  The people, the mountains, the environment, and even the snow are all wonderful, but in the end this mission is not a good fit for me.  It isn’t what I’ve found or experienced here, but what is missing here that has caused me to begin the process of discernment once again.

What’s missing at my current stop are not the material things like a local Starbuck’s, high-speed internet, or the beach.  I am missing time for the things that keep my spirituality healthy like regular mass with a priest and access to the sacraments, time for reflection and contemplation, time for my artwork, time for inspirational reading, time for online & on-pavement activism, and time to spend with my Creator.

Is it possible that the more I go through the process of discernment, the more painful it becomes?  Or is it that my past discernments have been false?  Perhaps I’m simply on a journey that requires a series of stops along the way.

Discernment:  It’s a bitch, and she’s biting my butt again.

Thoughts From “Mission Country”

Have I had a summer?  Oh, boy, have I had a summer!  After quitting my job of 22 years, saying goodbye to my family, friends, students, fellow parishioners, and the many dear people in my life, I sold what I had, packed what was necessary & made my way to “Mission Country” in the high mountain desert of New Mexico to serve the Jicarilla Apache children.  At about 7,400′ elevation I am happy to report NO altitude sickness this time around!  Occasional headaches, but a couple of Tylenol and a gallon of H2O puts me right again.

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St. Francis of Assisi School

I arrived safely on July 29th and made my way to Lumberton where I began orientation on the 31st.  My car arrived soon after, but my art supplies, kitchen & personal items on the moving van did not.  While I was expecting my things sooner than the car, that nightmarish scene from the latest Pixar film “Inside Out” came back to haunt me.  If you haven’t seen the movie, Riley & her family have to move across the country, they hire a moving company but their stuff isn’t there as promised when they arrive at the house.  The usual daily calls are made, but still no stuff.  De ja vu!  My moving truck was supposed to arrive by August 6th, but did not arrive until the 17th!  Some of the boxes looked like they had been crushed by elephants, others exposed to flooding, and a few actually made it here unscathed.  All but three boxes from my sewing room have been opened, and so far I have lost to breakage a butter dish, a pie plate, and a sushi plate that I made myself.  Still, not the end of the world.  That was yet to come.  Seriously.
The day after I finally got my stuff, I noticed a billowing cloud of smoke over the Archuleta Mesa.  We (the volunteer teachers) were told to “get an overnight bag ready & put it in the car; we may need to evacuate if the wildfire jumps the river!”  So…. My things finally arrive only to be threatened with 2 nearby wildfires.  Great!  Is anyone else looking for the icing on the cake?  Once back at the house, the water cuts out.  For two days!  Welcome to “Mission Country” where every day is a new adventure!
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Smoke from nearby wildfires.

I laughed as best I could because the alternative was to have an emotional meltdown.  The sad fact is that this happens on a regular basis, and not in Africa, South America, the Middle East, or some other impoverished, war-torn country.  This happens right here in America; the good ol’ US of A, folks!  What I find almost surreal is the laid-back attitude of the locals.  I asked one resident, “Why does the water cut out?”  Answer:  “Oh, sometimes they’re working on the lines & they break.  Other times the pump stops & they have to fix it.  Other times they’re cleaning something at the plant & they just shut it down.”  That’s it.  No notice.  No warning.  No courtesy notes hung on door knobs.  No public announcement or a “boil water” notice announced on the radio or the local TV News.  There is no local news.  Just local folks guessing & making due until it comes back on.  This is their “normal” and now my new normal.
When I was discerning a call to “mission” I oftentimes imagined going a third world county or a place ravaged by war and poverty.  I never imagined the USA, yet here it is.  Our own backyard!  In spite of all this, I am immediately in love with this place, the people, the culture, and the children.  The scenery alone is distracting enough!  But the people?  They are amazing!
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Rockies, valleys, sky… A painters paradise!

I have been placed in the First Grade, and am the Art Teacher for the whole school, K-8.  My First Grade has capped-out at 15, and I love them all!  One of my four most fidgety children is a real gem.  When I asked her how I was going to keep her in her seat, she suggested I try a seat-belt!  First Grade!  Too much wit for me!
Tragically their needs are great.  Most come from broken homes and experience great poverty.  Some are so far behind academically, I may very well have them again next year (yeah, I think I’m staying.).  Much of the curriculum is outdated, but the standards are not, thus creating a bit of a challenge for us teachers.  I’ve started out by telling my students that I think they are terrific kids, and I am positive that they will all work hard to do their best.  And I believe they will.  I’ve worked them hard this last month.  We planted seeds for Science, worked hard in Reading/LA and Math, I’ve given a lot of homework, and they still think I’m a great teacher!  I’ve got them walking in straight lines & quaking like ducks to & from the playground, yet walking silently like “silent e” when we walk past the Front Office.  Too precious!  And, I think I may have created something of a monster out here that my friends back East will appreciate:  Sunshine Sticks for behavior!  I’ve had reports from parents and other teachers that the hottest dinner table topic is “Who lost a Sunshine Stick today?”
I will do my best to keep posting throughout the school year.  Internet is very sketchy; it cuts out more than the water.  The hours spent at school are more than I care to admit, limiting my “down-time.”   If the Peace Corps is “the toughest job you’ll ever love,” then teaching at St. Francis School is by far “the toughest job I’ll ever, EVER love!”  Yep.  It’s Mission Country, but the people and the landscapes are totally worth it!
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Sunset over the Mesa.