Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What is my dream? Where does it come from?

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth while.” - Albert Einstein

The first thing I dream of is continuing to become a better and better educator. I’m considering going for the National Board Certification in the US. It would be a way to continue that journey and to challenge myself. I used to dream of great recognition in the field of education. And I suppose I still think that would be great; but I don’t seek it out or look for it anymore. Now I just DO things, like present at conferences, mentor new teachers, speak to colleagues about best practices. There’s no real “up the ladder” in education, so this is it; I just dream of doing it well.

My dream to be a teacher began when I was little. I first decided it would be great to be a gradeschool teacher when I was in first or second grade and other students would say things like, “You’re so smart. Can you help me?” I loved helping the other kids. Later in High School I had an art teacher say, “You should become an art teacher” and I thought I might. I even took pottery my freshman year in college because of my love of art. Then I found that math came easily and I thought that I could teach math - until I hit my first college class and that dream tanked pretty quickly. Eventually I found myself Christmas break of my sophomore year of college sitting on the toilet in Saundra’s little place up in Isanti, Minnesota. I was just minding my own business sitting on the toilet when the idea popped into my head, “You could be an English teacher!” That was it. I’m not sure if it was God or just my own voice, but at any rate I returned to school declaring an English major with the intent of becoming and English teacher. I never looked back.

But that’s not all there is to me. My other dream continues to be that of changing the world little by little through volunteer work. When I don’t need to work anymore, what I’d like to do is volunteer for the Red Cross or even Green Peace. I’ve seen retired people on television during natural disasters who just pick up their lives, and drive their RV to the location that needs them. I’d be perfectly content to hand out water bottles out of the back of a van for people in trouble and displaced. It would be a way to give back to the world, hurting communities, and perfect strangers with a sort of random act of kindness that I could afford to do because I won’t be working anymore. I’d love it if my husband would want to come with me. But we could do our own thing during those brief weeks, if necessary.

Recently, I was listening to the radio and their was a story about retired people volunteering for such efforts through Green Peace. I loved that idea! That could take us all over the world to placed we’d never dreamed of going. (Sort of like being in Korea, which wasn’t even so much a dream - it just happened!) Now that I’ve begun to see the world as an expat and a tourist, I think it would be awesome to see more of the world as a volunteer. Then I could continue making a difference AND learning AND providing an example to my children of how to live a life “worthwhile.”

In the end, these all seem to tie together: education, learning, volunteering. They all come back to the idea of making a difference through living a life “for others” because for me that is the “stuff that dreams are made of”.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing up

My kids are entering a pool at Laguna de Boracay, our resort for our Spring Break. We're in the Philippines for a second time in two years. The kids are pretending to be dolphins. They are playing well together - for the moment. They're just like any other kids, right?

That depends on how you look at it. Many of their classmates from Green Bay will spend all of their growing up years in one community, or one state, or at least one country. They'll grow up seeing tons of American TV and commercials and magazines, be exposed to a culture that tells them to see the world and themselves in a certain way. Friday night football will be important. And cheeseburgers. And Packers. Body image. A "good job". Money. A big screen tv.

At this point my kids at 8 and 10 have traveled to 3 countries and lived in 2 others (or 3 depending on which kids we're talking about). They're beginning to think that rice is preferable to mashed potatoes. That black hair and dark eyes is just as common as blond hair and blue eyes. And that riding a subway and living on the 15th floor is just fine. They go to a school with students who come and go, with friends who come and go, in a country that is and isn't their's. They're learning that education is valued differently by their classmates here than in GB. That

("Oh my God! There's a dead frog in here!" screams one of them. They are united in a common purpose now - to get the frog out of the pool. Turns out it is alive.)

Then there are the children here in Boracay. I'm only going on observation, but I may be correct in saying that school isn't a given. Boys are walking along the beach in the morning on a weekday. Children too young to be in school or on their own appear with their parents in the shops and stores. I doubt there's any childcare available in this economy. It's likely that grandma is still working all day and unable to take care of them. Two sons of the pool attendant watch my children play in the beautiful clear water. About dusk each night (perhaps after school and supper?) kids come out to the beach to sell handmade jewelry "at a good price". Their day doesn't end until 9 or 10 PM. They learn to speak bits of other languages out of necessity. Kids here meet people from all over the world; okay, they don't really meet us. They see us and observe us try to support their families by selling to us, then return to their homes behind bamboo fences where the chickens, roosters, and goats roam freely.

The book I'm reading, Bel Canto, has child soldiers in it from some unknown Central American nation. These young men are working for three generals who have taken a bunch of hostages at the Vice President's home. They've never seen a working television, have dirty clothes on and know how to shoot guns. Yes, it's a fiction book, but we both know this IS life for child soldiers in developing nations.

The kids are done with their swim and asking about lunch. Requests include beef bouillon, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, and fruit, and stir fry. Must be time to go.

Growing up continues.