Saturday, August 30, 2008

If you teach ELLs - you NEED this website!

Across the country, school is about to open, if it hasn't already. Many teachers, both veteran and novice, will meet a new group of bright, hopeful faces in their classrooms. Among these students, there are sure to be ELLs, or English Language Learners. As the face of our nation changes, so too must the strategies and tools we carry to meet the needs of our diverse students.

I invite you to visit the website Colorin Colorado. For the past several years, I have been part of the ELL Educator Cadre of practioners from across the United States. We have worked with the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) and the developers of the website, creating materials on professional development, and advising on special projects, strategies, and best practices for ELLs.

If you work with ELLs or their parents, you will find this website to be most useful. There is a "For Educators" section, as well as a "For Parents" section, which can be accessed in either English or Spanish. There are ready-to-use tip sheets and newsletters you can use with the parents of your students. The site also contains research, articles, podcasts/webcasts, and literally everything you ever needed to know about how to best serve your ELLs.

The site also offers reading tip sheets in 11 other languages, ready to copy and send out to parents.

Be sure to check out Colorin Colorado! Tell your colleagues! Share this resource with the parents of your students!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back to school before it starts

School begins next week! We teachers start on Tuesday the 2nd, and will have two days of staff development. The students will then have their first day of school on Thursday, the 4th. I'm looking forward to meeting my new students!
In the meantime, I've been to my classroom both yesterday and today. I arrived in old jeans and sneakers, knowing there was a lot to lift, unpack, move around, put away, and clean. These pictures show what I found when I got to my classroom. Not too bad at all. I spent the whole day yesterday making sense of the boxes and putting the furniture in its place.
Today, I returned for the entire day again, this time accompanied by my mom. I organized the art supplies, paper, texts, and book shelves, while Mami organized my desk and set up my "kitchen" area. Before we left at 3:30 (yes! 3:30 pm and I'm still supposedly on summer vacation!) Mami and I put up my bulletin boards. It's amazing how much we got accomplished.
I will return for a third time tomorrow, for the entire day again, to organize my teaching materials and my files, set up my classroom computers, put up my literacy word wall, put up my math word wall, hang up my posters, and open more boxes because there will be more when I get there.
I will then return the next day, to organize my classroom library. The books must be organized by themes (biographies, multicultural, sports, animals, holidays, fairy tales, states, countries, space, bilingual, etc.) A large part of the classroom library is also comprised of leveled readers, which also have to be organized in to different colored bins, and marked with different colored labels, indicating their levels.

I suppose I'll have to go in on Friday as well. There is so much to do...
While all of this back-to-school setting up is going on, what do I do with my son? Well, the boy is accustomed to life with two teachers. He's been going to school every day this week with his dad, setting up that classroom!

Monday, August 25, 2008


Your kitchen window, the birdfeeder hanging in view,
and the cardinals’ daily visit
your favorite coffee mug and the spot on the counter for your vitamins
your sturdy wooden table in the sunniest room –
vibrant green hanging plants at every window
your laundry room and pantry where you’ve established order and plenty
your notebooks and pens, ready to create, your office wall of picture frames
your bookshelves, waiting
your dog, begging for attention, and your cat, rubbing up against your legs
your own mashed-up squishy pillow
and the old comforter that feels like silk on your feet
your side of the bed
your night stand and about-to-topple-over stack of books
your small lamp and the click at the end of your day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Una semana en el paraíso

After a long, lovely week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I'm back home. Crossing the state line back in to Jersey felt good, as it always does after a trip. Home is, after all, home. This was the yearly big family vacation, spent with my mom and dad, sisters and brother, and their families. You can imagine what 20 souls living together feels and sounds like; in the moment, it can be chaotic, overwhelming, exciting, and loud. Very loud. Now that it's over, I feel a little no sé qué. I miss having mi gente right there, close.

We were lounging in our beach chairs, enjoying our last day by the ocean, watching the kids play, thinking about the long drive back. I was also internally stressing over all the things I had to do when I got home, the back-to-school clothes shopping, appointments, the loads of laundry, setting up my classroom, the diet I need to start, and the work I need to complete before the first day of school, when a scraggly old guy walked by and paused near us. I waved to him, he waved back. He inched closer, and said something to my brother-in-law, who immediately engaged him with a "How you doin'?" The guy replied simply, "Another day in paradise!" and walked on his way, stopping every now and then to take a picture of a sand crab, a sandpiper, a crashing wave, the rubble of a sand castle.

Thank you, scraggly guy with the bandanna and camera, for reminding me how lucky I was to enjoy a week with the people I love most in the world. Thank you for reminding me that our kids are growing up fast and that they are, still, kids. Thank you for reminding me that moments like these are becoming less frequent, when we can all be together, all of us in one place. Thank you for reminding me to be grateful. Thank you for reminding me that it was indeed, paradise.

Friday, August 15, 2008

On Holiday!

We're leaving in a couple of hours for vacation to Outer Banks, North Carolina. It will be the entire family, that's 20 of us, under one roof for a week. We're experts at this; we've been doing the BIG TOGETHER for several summers now. The time always proves to be memorable.

I checked on our rental yesterday, and discovered that the house HAS NO INTERNET ACCESS! I emailed everyone, the messages were flying back and forth, and my brother jokingly admitted he purposely booked a house with no access so that it would be a true vacation.


Well, I'm still taking my lap-top, just in case. Besides, mi jefe found some local Internet cafes so he can do his "banking". (That means fantasy sports and keeping up with his blog.) I'll try to check in as well. If I don't, it will just mean I am resting and thoroughly enjoying the water, sun, and my family.

Adios folks! I'm outta here!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

At the bookstore

“The cookies seem to have gotten smaller”
he says, as he clutches a bunch of
fashion magazines, comic books, the latest American Girl,
a no-carb diet book,
and "Improving Your Swing"
in the crook of his arm
and fiddles in his wallet for some plastic.
The guy behind the counter just looks at him.

There was a time when a cookie satisfied.
He could get his sugar fix on just one of these babies
back in the day,
when he was just a kid
no worries, no commitments, no plan.
A small coffee and a cookie were it
when he spent long afternoons reading, studying, planning.

Time and responsibility did a good job of fixing that.
Do you have any idea what wife, work, and kids can do to you?
Not enough anymore
even though he has everything.
He’s overdone it,
just like he's about to now on these
chocolate-laced oatmeal raisin cookies and tall java-chip banana smoothie.
Eyes too big for his many mouths,
season tickets and SUV,
wife’s shoe and bag habit,
kids’ video games and plasma TV,
piano lessons, football pools, spa treatments.
Hands too big for his wallet.
The need is too big –
it grows along with his title
and remains unfilled
despite having everything.
It was better when he had nothing.
The cookies were bigger.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Book Review: Digging to America

Digging to America, by Anne Tyler, explores family, adoption, culture, and what it means to be “American”. Two very different families, one American and the other Iranian, gather at an airport to welcome their adopted babies from Korea. The arrival of the infants is the beginning of a life-long relationship for these two families, one that takes them through politeness, curiosity, comfort, bonding, and explorations of differentness and belonging.

Very often, Americans and newcomers attempt to interact at social gatherings, sharing information about each other via food tasting, invitations to partake in customs, and general exchanges of cultural details. However well-intentioned these efforts may be, both groups sometimes assume that the work of getting to know one another ends there.

Tyler, I think, intends for the reader to see that there is much more below the surface; it is too easy to get caught up in the way people look, the way they speak, the way they behave. Some characters in Tyler’s book fall into the trap of ethnocentrism, while others are politically correct to the point of being offensive. This book examines the opportunities that are lost when we make assumptions and when we believe that our way is the only way.

I enjoyed this book. It reminded me of times as a child, when I watched my mother fuss over perfect party preparations. She was eager to please and impress, as the guest list was a "mixed" crowd, including my father's American colleagues, and our Bolivian family and friends. Quite naturally, both groups gravitated to separate areas of the room. Fortunately, food, drinks, and music eventually got everyone to mingle.

Are you interested in this book? I'd be glad to send it to you. Comment on this post by Wednesday, August 20, and mention that you're interested in the book. I will select a winner and mail it to you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

This time is on loan

(This is a translation of yesterday's post.)

Mi único hijo cumplirá 12 años en noviembre, y me encuentro pensando en el tiempo que ha pasado tan rapidamente. Tal como lo hacen muchas madres, quisiera poder regresar y hacer tantas cosas de nuevo; esta madre ha cometido muchos errores en el camino. Al querer ser esposa, madre, y profesional, quizás no he podido balancear las cosas lo suficiente.

Mientras completé mi tésis, enseñé a mis alumnos de cuarto grado, organizé un programa de asistencia para padres, dirigí un programa escolar los sábados por la mañana, presenté talleres y dí presentaciones, defendí la educación bilingüe, y hasta trabajé en Washington como cabildera – mi pequeño hijo ha estado creciendo rapidamente. Aunque hayan las personas que dirán “pobre niño” y “qué madre más mala” cuando piensen en mí, espero que de alguna manera, algún día, mi hijo verá que su madre andaba hacienda cosas valiosas durante su tiempo aquí.

Claro, siempre lamentaré algunos de esos momentos que me los perdí…

“I’m busy right now” said the mother to her small child.
“I have a lot to do.
Don’t you see I have to clean, wash, and organize?
Don’t you understand I have to
write and complete this report,
sign and send these forms,
revise and edit these papers,
and fulfill all of these responsibilities?”

The boy replied,
“I just want to play with you,
draw and paint for a while,
walk to the park,
kick the ball in the yard
or ride bikes.”

Just the same, the woman found a way to avoid it
as she got involved in her busy-ness, not realizing
there was something more important to do.

That boy, so clever,
made up his own stories, read books,
played with his imagination,
created costumes and constructed scenes,
and even invented friends to keep him company.

She always praised him.
“Son, you are so beautiful,
so quiet and calm.
You know how to behave.
You don’t bother anybody.
You entertain yourself wonderfully.

Come here, let me give you a kiss.”

“No mother. I’m too old for that stuff.
Besides, I have a lot to do.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

El tiempo es prestado

My only child will be 12 in November and I often find myself thinking back to this time that has passed so quickly. As many mothers do, I wish I could take back and do over so many things; this mom made a lot of mistakes along the way. In wanting to be a wife, mother, and professional, I may have not done the best job of balancing it all.

While I worked on a thesis, taught my 4th grade students, organized a Parent Outreach program, ran a Saturday Morning School, traveled out of state, presented workshops and gave presentations, advocated for bilingual education, and even made it to Capitol Hill as a lobbyist - my little boy was growing fast. Though there are some that may say "poor kid" and "bad mom" when they think of me, I have to believe that in some way, some day, my son will see that his mother did good things during her time here.

Of course, I will always lament some of those little moments I missed out on...

“Es que no tengo tiempo” dijo la mujer a su pequeño hijo.
“Tengo demasiado que hacer.
¿No ves que tengo que limpiar, lavar, ordenar?
¿No entiendes que tengo que
escribir y completar este reporte,
firmar y enviar estos formularios,
revisar y redactar estos papeles,
y cumplir con tantas responsabilidades?”

El niño respondió,
“Solo quiero jugar contigo,
dibujar y pintar un rato,
caminar al parque,
patear la bola en el patio
o correr en bicicleta.”

Por lo mismo, la mujer encontró la manera de evadirlo
y se metió en sus cosas sin darse cuenta que
había algo más importante que hacer.

Ese niño, tan astuto,
se inventó cuentos, leyó libros,
jugó con la imaginación,
creó disfraces y construyó escenarios,
hasta se inventó unos amigos para que lo acompañen.

Ella, siempre lo alababa.
“Hijo, qué bello que eres,
tan quieto y tranquilo.
Sabes comportarte.
No molestas a nadie.
Te distraes divinamente.

Ven aquí, te daré un beso.”

“No madre. Estoy muy grande para esas cosas.
Además, tengo demasiado que hacer.”

Monday, August 4, 2008

Reach for More has received an award!

I’ve been blogging for just 4 ½ months, and I’ve received an award! I would like to thank Stella from My World-Mi Mundo for awarding my blog with an Arte y Pico award. Cool! Mil gracias Stella por tu apoyo y amistad. Lo agradezco de verdad.

This award is passed on to blogs you learn from, that inspire you, that make you smile or think, and that are doing something special. Here are the rules:
1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogger community, no matter what language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award-winning blog has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of the Arte y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules.

And so, the Arte y Pico award goes to:

Larry, at Crowned with Laurels - for his insightful observations about people and nature, and for sharing honest and raw feelings about growing up. Real poems for real people!

Pearmama, at Hello World - for her amazing artwork, and for the way she is able to glide from mother, to wife, to artist, to funny woman. Very entertaining!

LanaBanana, at American Fool - for her bad-ass attitude which I love, and because she is probably someone I would love to hang out with in real life. I appreciate how she says what she wants to say, sin pelo en la lengua!

Mr. Magoo, at El Atico de Mr. Magoo - for his reminders of the songs we grew up with, his Musical Fridays, and great-to-listen-to podcasts.

and Literanista - for her excellent discussions of Hispanic books and authors, and for being a great source for what to read next.

If the awarded bloggers wish to pass on the award, please go to Arte y Pico for the rules.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Latina Book Review: Border-Line Personalities

Border-line Personalities proved to be a great read. Topics such as mother-daughter relationships, family secrets, being bilingual, ethnic pride and denial, raising kids, sexuality, love, and careers are all discussed by 20 different Latina writers. Although the viewpoints presented in this collection of essays are varied, there is a clear sense of some commonality among Latinos.

Several points hit home for me in this book. One of them, el qué dirán (the "what will they think/say") is so prevalent in the lives of Latinas; many of us are raised by a mami who warns us not to embarrass her, the family, and ourselves by "non-traditional" or "unacceptable" behaviors and decisions. This proves to be a source of internal conflict for Latinas who struggle to be true to their more modern and independent, American selves.

Another topic that emerged in these selections was that of labeling and stereotypes. Often, we are incorrectly called Spanish, when in fact some of us are immigrants from or descendants of Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Chile, Argentina, and all of the other Spanish-speaking countries that form Central and South America. Many of us are born in the United States. When I'm asked "what are you?" (yes, people do ask) I reply that I am American-born, and that my parents are Bolivian. I identify with both cultures. I speak Spanish, but I am not Spanish.

One of the essays reminded me of a disappointing conversation I suffered with my college roommate many years ago. She seemed to think I was a "good" Hispanic because I did not "act like one". I remember her saying something about "those people", and how I didn't look like them, or "talk fast" like them.

So what is this term Latina all about? For me, and the writers in Border-Line Personalities, it's a feeling, an outlook, an attitude, a way of life, a source of pride. Latinas relate to each other on another level because of the way we've been raised, the similarities in our different cultures, because of what is expected of us, and because of the way we're perceived in the greater picture of American life. Latinas continue to redefine themselves while also contributing positively to the forward movement of their families and their communities.

Want to read this book? I'll be glad to send it to you. Comment on this post by Monday, August 4, and mention if you are interested in receiving my well-kept copy. I will select a winner and mail the book to you.

Let's Stay Together

My siblings and their children came over to spend the day yesterday. While the kids swam in the pool for hours, my husband and brother tore up the old shed out back, and my sisters and I stayed inside and talked. It was both a very simple yet fulfilling day. At one point, all fifteen of us were crowded into my small dining room for a simple meal of pizza and salad.

Our parents are away on a European trip, and as they get older, they often repeat to us kids that it would mean the world to them that we remain close, even after they leave us. It’s comforting to know that the safest and warmest place is with your family, and that often, your siblings are your best friends.

Mis hermanas y sus hijos vinieron a casa ayer a pasar el día. Mientras los chicos nadaron en la piscina, mi marido y mi hermano destrozaron el cobertizo viejo, y mis hermanas y yo nos quedamos adentro a charlar. Fué un día sencillo y agradable a la véz. Hubo un momento en el cual todos nos metimos en el comedor a cenar una comida sencilla de pizza y ensalada.

Nuestros padres estan de viaje en Europa, y mientras van envejeciendo, nos repiten frecuentemente que quisieran que estemos siempre juntos, aún cuando yá no esten con nosotros. Me consuela saber que el lugar más seguro y cariñoso es con la familia, y que muchas veces, los hermanos son los mejores amigos.