Thursday, November 27, 2008


For my husband – confidant and like-minded companion
and my son – who needs me and makes me want to be a better person
my parents, sisters, brother – family is forever
for friends – few and true
work – security, stability, requiring me to do my best
my students – who test and teach me
for high expectations
for reading – if only it was all I had to do
for writing – a good habit
for health – so far
for my country, my people
por ser bilingüeporque me vale muchísimo
for personal projects and pasatiempos
for morning coffee and afternoon naps
the birds outside my window
and the occasional snow day
for having something to fight for
and for being allowed to be me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Super Hero contemplates 40

Her cape is ripped,
snagged on splinters, shredded by glass,
no longer flowing behind her in the wind,
faded from years of flying.
The shine rubbed off a long while ago.
Her sleek unitard has seen better days,
worn in several spots,
threadbare where she least needs it to be.
She doesn’t look quite the same in it,
but it’s black,
disguising flaws
and years of bad eating habits.
The thigh-high boots will have to go soon
though she doesn’t know how low-heeled clogs will go with this look.
Her feet just aren’t the same.

Her vision is failing.
She can’t see through walls as she used to.
They stop her cold, she gives in too easily.
Her steely grip is weakening from arthritis,
easily dropping things she’s been trying to hold on to.

Had Marvel or DC known her,
she would have remained beautiful, strong, powerful, young –
a force to fear.
In the mirror though, she is drained –
fine-lines earned from real work, long hours,
and endless worries.
She sighs, shrugs, downs her morning elixir,
brewed hot and strong,
and heads out, pulling at her tights,
fluffing out her long-flowing black hair,
(she still has that going)
and calls on her will to
get through another day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So tired, I can't sleep

Nine o’clock, exhausted, ready for bed
so cold, extra blankets
alarm set, good night.
My eyes opened at 11, I remembered the laundry.
I woke again at 12, counted to 239, thought about work.
I saw the clock at 1:34, wondered if it had to do with age?
Flipped the pillow to the cool side,
threw my arm around my husband at 1:55,
and mulled over an argument.
Counted to three hundred something
and saw green glowing at 2:46,
considered where to stop for gas in the morning.
Unwrapped myself from too-warm covers at 3:50,
tugged at the comforter again around 4:44,
mentally rearranged the next day’s class schedule.
Sirens! Screaming! Beeping!
Fumbled for the button at 5:30,
hit snooze, not so gently, for just 10 more precious minutes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Educating Ourselves About ELLs

This past Thursday, I met with an awesome group of proactive and professional people who work as advocates for English Language Learners. This group, the ELL Educator Cadre, is comprised of 16 educators from across the United States. We meet in Washington DC at the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) headquarters twice a year. Our team discusses issues in the field of English language acquisition, such as testing, equitable access to programs and materials, professional training, research, and best practices. This effort, coordinated by the AFT, is an opportunity for real practitioners to contribute expertise and knowledge to policy-makers, public relations specialists, and elected representatives at the state and national level.

Today, one in five students in this country is Hispanic. This fact is an obvious indicator of the changes our country is experiencing. Whether we look at this fact as an “issue” or an opportunity says a lot about how we approach the education of our children. We certainly have to make many adjustments as we plan for and deliver instruction.

While talking with my colleagues in Washington, it became apparent that great strides are being made in the areas of English language learning, bilingual education, and ESL instruction. However, I also see how a lot of this progress is overshadowed by the impossible demands of NCLB, accompanied by a lingering resentment toward immigrants and a clear resistance to becoming more appreciative of that which is “different”.

I wonder, are all of my brothers and sisters in teaching ready to look at things differently? Are you ready to experience a paradigm shift? As the numbers of English Language Learners grow in your schools, will you stand up for the rights of all children to receive the very BEST that you have to offer?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The language of learning and teaching

This field has its own "language", which often includes confusing acronyms and expressions that may vary from district to district. Several years ago, I came across this list and have shared it several times while mentoring new teachers. I've even brought it to the attention of parents while conducting workshops.

I was somewhat surprised more like incredibly disappointed when, during a conversation with teachers from outside my district, one individual did not know what AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) was. Are you kidding me? I suppose I'm overly-sensitive to this acronym, and NCLB, as they loom in the background of everything I do am supposed to be doing in my classroom. Perhaps the individual who didn't know what AYP was, is fortunate to teach in a school where TESTING has not taken over.

Check out the Lexicon of Learning, save it to your favorites. You may find it useful when preparing for a presentation or an argument with your principal.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An afternoon swim

Rainy day weekends command naps
and she is more than willing to oblige
once the clock shows 2 or 3
or after lunch, when her insides are full and warm.
She bids farewell to the others, and calls up to her bed
“I’m on my way!”
gathering up her book as she climbs to her room,
her quiet heaven.
She slips off her daily clothes, folds them neatly and places them
on a nearby chair, for later,
then reaches under her pillow for the softest nightshirt,
stretching her arms as the comforting worn cotton falls around her shoulders.
Pulling the covers away, she wants to jump in,
but won’t disturb the cat, already blissfully asleep.
Carefully, precisely, she climbs in, and lays down,
opening her book to the part where the boy and his horse
ride into the ocean and swim with the dolphins.
While she reads
her feet rub against each other rhythmically
remnants of a child’s self-soothing habit
and after two or three pages
her eyes begin to grow heavy
and the rain calls her to sleep
the book falls away,
and the breeze lifts the curtains.
The rains sing and soothe
as she swims away.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

That thing that moms do

Can I make you French toast this morning?
My son’s eager eyes convey pleasure at the thought of
a real mom-made breakfast,
not frozen, not shaken out from a box,
nor spread between two pieces of wheat bread.
Do I have the ingredients? Let’s see…
here’s eggs, white bread,
in the cupboard the cinnamon, and near the coffee-maker
a container holding hundreds of pink packets, and lucky for us
several white Domino packets of the real stuff.
But there’s no milk in the fridge.
No problem – I’ll use half & half!
It’s the same thing, pretty much.
In fact, it’ll probably taste better.
I gather everything and get to work.
Crack open three eggs, pour in the “milk”,
shake in a bunch of cinnamon, and pour in a few sugar packets.
I do that thing that the chefs do with a fork, really fast
making sure he sees me.
He’ll have a memory of me making him French toast.
I drop a glob of butter in the pan,
and while it melts, I place the bread in to the stuff I’ve mixed,
letting it soak.
With my fork, I stab the bread and transport it across
several inches of countertop
dripping cinnamon-egg slop along the way,
and lay it in the sizzling pan.
He walks by, and I’m humming, poking at the bread with the fork,
peaking underneath to see if it’s time to turn it over.
Is that what it’s supposed to look like? we both wonder.
After a while, both sides look ready, I place the toast on a plate and
take it to the table where my son waits, smiling.
This is awesome! he says, while I watch him eat.
I’ll have a memory of him eating French toast,
that I made for him.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

YES WE CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

¡Vamos a votar!

Election 2008 Voting Information from
Today, November 4th, is Election Day! Remember to vote--not just for Barack Obama, but for Congressional, state and local candidates as well.

Where and when do I vote?
Find your polling place, voting times, and other important information by checking out these sites and the hotline below. These resources are good, but not perfect. To be doubly sure, you can also contact your local elections office.
Obama's VoteForChange site:
League of Women Voters site:
Obama's voter hotline: (877) US4-OBAMA (or 877-874-6226)

What should I do before I go?
After you've entered your address on either Vote For Change or Vote411, read the voting instructions and special rules for your state.
Voting ID laws vary from state to state, but if you have ID, bring it.
Check out all the voting myths and misinformation to look out for:

What if something goes wrong?
Not on the voter list? Make sure you're at the right polling place, then demand a provisional ballot.
If you're voting on an electronic machine with a paper record, verify that the record is accurate.
Need legal help? Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE
Try to get video of the problem and submit it to

Want to do more?
Text all of your friends: "Vote Obama today! Pass it on!"
Volunteer at your local Obama office. Find an office here or here.
Make calls from home for Obama.

Now everybody go vote!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Viva la vida y los momentos que compartimos

Last Sunday night, a week ago, we surprised our son with a Coldplay concert. We tricked him in to thinking we were going to his grandparents’ house for a late dinner, and on the way he fell asleep in the car. Perfect! My husband drove while we rocked out to our favorite music and the boy slept in the back.

When we finally made it to the concert, we blasted the radio, playing “Viva la Vida”, waking the boy up. His eyes were wide, alarmed. “Wake up! Wake up! Let’s go man! We’re at the Coldplay concert!” My husband was having fun with this.

Yeeeeaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” my son roared. He was clearly psyched.

We had an awesome time. I kept looking over at my little boy, now as tall as me, singing, clapping, cheering, feeling the emotions that one feels when totally surrounded by music and people. People from all over were there, yet everyone seemed to be from the same place, feeling the same joy. There’s nothing like music to make you feel like the world will be OK.

On the way home, 1:00 in the morning, my son said, “I’ll never forget this night.” Me neither, kid. You, me, and the music.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Autumn Eyes Behold...

golden leaves on the lawn
scarlet apples in a basket
a baby-blue sky above the neighborhood
the black shadows behind the trees
a milky-brown hot cocoa between my hands
a cerulean river through the forest
an orange sun between the clouds
the pink faces at the playground

These are some lines from my students' poems. They paint quite a picture, don't they?

For students who speak Spanish as a first language, this activity provides practice in the adjective-before-noun structure of English. (In Spanish, the adjective follows the noun.) It is also useful in its use of prepositions. This is a natural and relevant way to learn English, rather than the old-fashioned "grammar lesson".