First Day of School Kindness #BeKind21

Day 4 – Setting Up a Classroom Peace Area

On Tuesday, I set up a peace area for my students. A classroom peace area is a space set aside to aide students who are experiencing uncomfortable emotions, including anxiety, fear, and sadness, and it is also a space for a student to simply relax and gather oneself for a moment.

In my classroom peace area, a student (or a teacher) can sit and rub on some lotion, play with a little stuffed animal, explore a basket full of peace rocks, look at a model of the heart, and look at soothing images.

It is just a little corner of respite for anyone who might need it. I actually love sitting in it myself, and students can even just bring something they need from this area to their desk.

Day 5 – Cooking for My Family

On Wednesday night, I made bucatini and homemade tomato sauce for my family. I love the tomato sauce recipe from Diane Seed’s Top 100 Pasta Sauces. I used to make tomato sauces that were too spicy for my kids, but this recipe is one that everyone loves. It feels good to nourish my family before the first day of school.

Day 6 – The First Day of School with a New Ritual

I always wake up early on the first day of school. This morning, I was up at 5 am. I resisted my phone and computer for some relaxation. I filled the tub with hot water and bath salts, made myself this tea, and read a bit of Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom –

Many people mix up happiness with excitement, but excitement is not exactly happiness. When you’re excited, there’s not enough peace in you, and the happiness isn’t real.

After the bath, as my family awoke and we started bustling around, I felt a little more reserved than usual – a good thing for me. This quotation resonated with me throughout the day and helped me to cultivate the presence I wanted to have for my beginning ESL students and for modeling my best self for my student teacher. You can see in the latter pictures that my students and my student teacher are working together collaboratively, purposefully, and deliberatively on a writing task.

Back-To-School Radical Kindness with the Born This Way Foundation’s 21 Days to Be Kind

This September, I am working on practicing radical kindness through the Born This Way Foundation‘s 21 Days to Be Kind initiative. As a parent and educator, at this extremely busy time of year, I believe that deliberate and strategic kindness with support my inner self, my family, my students, my colleagues, and my community through this time of transition.

My hope is to improve my ease with myself and the way I treat others. Because of my misjudgments, impulsivities, and wrongs that make me downright human. Because I can get so caught up in schedules, chores, should-haves, paperwork, social media, gossip, I am committing to 21 Days to Be Kind to focus on what truly matters – the way I treat myself and others.

A lot of my focus this Labor Day weekend is on self-care – this is setting the stage for the upcoming and potentially very stressful week. I am counting down until Thursday – the first day of school – when I need to bring my biggest smile and maximum energy to greet all of our students and get them off to a great start.

September 1 – Run

Running is my ultimate stress release and the one non-work non-family all-by-myself commitment I make three times per week. My husband and I are training for separate half marathons this fall – and I am doing my first full marathon in February.  It has benefitted our relationship so much – we have fewer arguments and a hobby to discuss and geek out on. I love making my playlists. My current one is music from the 60’s that I loved as a child – the Monkees, the Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, The Fifth Dimension. On Saturday, along my 9.5 mile run, I smiled at strangers and greeted them with good morning. It felt good to get so many smiles back. Literally – smiles for miles. I was also treated to Fujiko Nakaya’s Fog X FLO sculpture at Jamaica Pond.

September 2 – Healthy Food 

Today I made a meal plan and got groceries. It makes me feel really good to be organized with a refrigerator full of healthy food and a plan of how to use it.

I became a vegetarian in December after reading Tracy McQuirter’s By Any Greens Necessary. As I ruminated on the practice of non-violence, I decided that being vegetarian was one choice I could make to slow unnecessary cruelty – to animals but also to the people who work in the dangerous meatpacking industry. I ate a lot of vegan junk food in the beginning, but now I am learning how to make better choices. I like to get cookbooks from the library to get inspiration and ideas. My family is currently enjoying recipes from Phaidon’s Vegan cookbook as well as from Eat Greens and Super Easy Vegan Slow Cooker.

This plan is especially important this week – school starts on Thursday, and the next few days will be jam packed with preparations.

Bringing My Preschool Age Daughters to Charleston’s Old Slave Mart Museum

For the past few weeks, after my kids are in bed, I have had my nose buried in Ned and Constance Sublette’s quintessential soon-to-be-required-reading The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave Breeding Industry. (My thoughts on this book will be a whole nother post…) Through reading this, I came to understand that few images exist of slave auction houses, and the historical remnants of slavery have been persistently concealed.

While looking up sites to visit on a family vacation to Charleston, I came across The Old Slave Market Museum  I was enthusiastic to visit this rare preservation of an auction building, but I hesitated because I would need to bring my three young daughters with me.

I worried: Is it appropriate for them? Is it going to be too scary? 

But I really wanted to go. I really want my daughters to be educated about history and justice, even in a small way at their age. I want my daughters to see the joy I take in learning and the seriousness and purposefulness that I approach learning in my life.

And so we went. It was $8 per adult and free for children, so I knew that even if we spent a short time, it would be fine – not too expensive.

And so we went. My daughters love to look at maps, and we spent a little time discussing a map which showed how slaves were transported from Maryland and Virginia to other parts of the South – by chattel, train, river, and ocean.

My daughters mentioned that the people in the photos looked sad, and they didn’t like that people had to leave their families. They asked me about the shackles and told me that they didn’t want to wear them. They studied a plaque that showed how people who were enslaved were prepared for the auctions – shaved, dressed nicely, being fed more food in the weeks prior to sale.

I used some very simple questions (taken from Visual Thinking Strategies) to start discussions about the museum’s features: What’s going on in this picture? What more can we find?

We spent twenty minutes in the museum, and I was proud that I took my children, proud that they behaved well, that they were curious, and proud that I overcame my hesitation of bringing them.

After they went outside, I had the pleasure of speaking with History Interpreter Christine King Mitchell, who provided me with some wonderful booklists. She is working towards publication of a book of primary source materials, and she showed me a few copies of posters announcing slave auctions that will be included in her book.

Later that day, my oldest daughter informed me: “I want to be brown.” I realized we had not discussed the skin color of people displayed in the museum. She had also played with two girls who were black in the Charleston Waterfront Park Fountain that day. (Not unusual – my daughters go to a fairly diverse preschool and have played with children with all shades of skin.) So, I wondered why she wanted to be black. “Mom – I could wear bright pink lipstick if I was brown.”

She is interested in race, so it is my responsibility now to find some books about this and start talking a bit about skin. I don’t feel comfortable with the topic at all, but I know it’s important.

“She anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.”

Do you like to read aloud to your friends and family? I do. And this week, a trio of articles served as a catalyst for discourse and especially for wild gut-busting laughter during some family car trips.

The Article: How We Are Ruining America by David Brooks

The premise of this piece is that upper middle class Americans deliberately move their families away from the other half (read: “the poor and less educated”) and therefore limit opportunities for inclusion. This essentially bars class mobility. Basically, it is a caste system – locking out the untouchables, with little access to the upper classes. Education is a key part of this, and the system for college admissions is rigged to prioritize children of parents who are wealthy enough to play the game.

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While Brooks’ premise is aligned with my experiences with my own education and my profession as an educator, he makes a BIG MISTAKE – a paragraph so distracting that it is ripe for parody, and, well, just pretty dumb.

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Here it is – in all its glory:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

This is a lesson in writing – reread and ensure that your discourse is aligned and on message. The paragraphs before and after are written with on message and with academic language that fits the tone of the rest of the article. Brooks attempts to use a personal anecdote to connect with the reader – but it is an incredible distraction from his message and drew enormous critical responses about this single paragraph (see the fun part below). The poignant parts are forgotten as America reacts to the mention of delicatessen.

Also interesting to note that Italian is perceived as sophisticated (a change from just a century and change from when Italians were outcasts and even lynched) whereas Mexican is clearly just a step above a Miller High Life,  a bag of pork rinds, and some stale circus peanuts.

And now for the fun part…

Exhibit A: From the poignant blog The Outline, an  op-ed piece by Alex Nichols

Stop patronizing the working class: Why are pundits obsessed with Applebee’s and farm workers?

BOOM! Here’s the question on everyone’s miss after reading the sandwich shop story:

“First of all, how does someone so stereotypically provincial manage to befriend a high-profile Times columnist?”

And the following paragraph (definitely read this one aloud to a friend!) rips the equally-obsessed-with-how-the-lower-castes-handle-food columnists anti-gay conservative Rod Dreher and Bloomberg columnist Meghan McArdle a new one:

There is indeed a pattern here, but it isn’t that working-class Americans universally break out in hives when confronted with food other than hamburgers and mac ‘n’ cheese — it’s that no one wants to go out to lunch with any of these pompous hacks.

BOOM! Ain’t that the truth!

Exhibit B: From The AV Club‘s Sean O’Neal

Explaining David Brooks’ column to a stupid coworker who’s scared of fancy meat

This article is an absolute gem. And a single sentence had my husband and I laughing so hard that my daughters all laughed along with us:

“Indeed, I said single-malted-scotch-ily. I explained how this column serves as yet another clarion call alerting us to America’s slow sinking into a morass of cultural decline, which David Brooks and others like us—we who thoughtfully chew our piquant charcuterie while brooding over the Proustian reveries of ourselves it inspires—can only look upon it sadly, gazing down at our bologna-smeared consorts and lamenting the many bloviating, condescending, overpaid butchers of language and meat that are driving us apart.”

“Single-malted-scotch-ily” – who writes like this? Amazing. Just meet a friend for lunch (antipasto, anyone? or maybe just a gas station pickle in a bag)  and read this article to them. You are giving them a gift, seriously.

 

A Bookworm’s Boston: May 2017

Now is the winter of our discontent

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
– Richard III
May has been a wonderful month for this bookworm to come out of hibernation. One habit I begun over the wintertime was solo dates with my daughters while maintaining my husband and I’s catch-as-catch-can solo dates. And the dates have improved along with the weather.
All of the dates involve city walking and public transportation – a writer’s dream and a form of relaxation.  I interact passively or directly with potentional characters in the setting of my Boston community. I capture snippets of dialogue while delighting in the rhythm of the city around me. My professional work as a Boston Public Schools teacher involves thousands of decisions and inserts me centrally in the lives of others, so bopping around town is a relief and a contrast. The decisions I make while out and about- to take Gloucester Street or Hereford, to write in a notebook or just hold hands with my husband or daughter – are inconsequential.
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The other commonality that these dates share is that they are relatively inexpensive. A recent favorite date with my husband was a Pay-What-You-Want afternoon matinee of “peerless” by Jihae Park at the Boston Public Library’s beautifully renovated Rabb Hall. (Note: The Kiersten Business Library is  now located right alongside this hall. It has transformed from a dusty little room with cassettes of foreign language materials into an open study hall with alcoves, white boards, and comfortable couches and chairs). I absolutely loved this rendition of the Scottish play in which a pair of murderous twins plots to kill their classmates who have taken their coveted spots at the college. The sparse sets and the ruthless lack of empathy by the protagonists, paired with rhythmic dialogue, evoked the question: Why is so much value placed on the American Ivy League university? Admission comes at great cost – not only in a fiscal sense, but also in the cost of losing one’s identity in search of admittance to an elitist and exclusive, rather than democratic and inclusive, institution that values lineage and wealth over intellect and creativity? I had the chance to ask Ms. Park in post-show conversation about how to promote a new American ideal away from these preservation institutions, an ideal that values democratic principals and reflects the cultural diversity of young adults across our country. Her work increased my awareness of just how incredibly difficult it is for racial “minority” groups to obtain access to these presupposed American Institutions.  I found Ms. Park’s work to be radical and supportive of true democracy, and the Company One‘s pricing model enables Bostonians across class differences access to a professional (and provocative) theater production. Shows are still available tomorrow and next weekend. 
A second wonderful date was today – I took my middle daughter (almost 3 and younger than her older twin by 14 minutes) to IAM Books, one of my most beloved Boston bookstores and the very first Italian-American bookstore in the country. There was a special I Piccoli Lettori (Little Readers’ Group) from 10:30 – 11:30 am. I am not Italian, but my daughters are the great-granddaughters of an Italian immigrant from Genoa who fled Mussolini at age 5 and came to San Francisco, attended an almost exclusively Chinese school, worked as a garbage collector, and eventually became a wealthy restauranteur. A pre-school teacher from Florence, Ms. Adele, conducted a small group of Italian and Italian-American families with young children in a song and then a reading of Il piccolissimo Bruco Maisazio who eats, among other comestibles, prugnefragoleun lecca-leccagelato, and salsiccia.  And consequently, this piccolissimo becomes very fat. The children passed a piccolisimo to one another during the reading and then used glue and construction paper to create their own piccolisimo. I was touched when another family with a beautiful daughter invited us to Umberto, where we dined cheaply on arancini and pizza. Afterwards, I sat in the grass while Sofia ran back and forth on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway.
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Boston Teachers Union Parent 2 Parent: Literacy Materials for Families

I was asked by the Boston Teachers Union to create this list of literacy resources for Boston Public Schools families attending the BTU’s Parent 2 Parent Conference tomorrow at Madison Park High School. Please click here to download a printable PDF of this list.

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1,000 Books Before Kindergarten (Age 0-5)

http://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org

This website helps you to accomplish a goal of reading 1,000 books before your child begins Kindergarten. This is only 1 book per night for a little less than three years! Your child will gain vocabulary and sit and focus ability, not to mention a love of books and a special bond with family members over book sharing.

*Parent 2 Parent Tip: I have three children under age 2, and we share our books when my children are in high chairs for meals or when they are in their cribs before naptime and bedtime.

AdLit.Org:Ready for College Resources – Books for the College Bound (Grades 4-12)

http://www.adlit.org/ready_for_college/

AdLit stands for Adolescent Literacy. This website has a wealth of information about teaching and learning for students in gr. 4-12. The “Books for the College Bound” booklists are wonderful for finding challenging books that will prepare your child for college-level reading in various subject areas.

Boston Public Library

http://www.bpl.org

Visit the local branch of your public library to browse for books with your children (and yourself!). Ask the librarians for recommendations. Each branch has a bulletin board with a list of events for children and families.

*Parent 2 Parent Tip: When it is especially hot weather, I go to my local branch with my children to hang out in the FREE air conditioning.

MobyMax.Com (Grades K-8)

http://www.mobymax.com

This website allows for students to practice skills in many subject areas – including reading! A free trial is available. Please contact me at jdines@bostonpublicschools.org if you need assistance with this site or would like a full membership.

Reading Is Fundamental Monthly Activity Calendars (Age 0-5, Age 6-15)

http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/activities/monthly-activity-calendars.htm

These printable calendars contain suggestions for daily seasonal activities and books. The calendars available in English and Spanish.

*Parent 2 Parent Tip: When I print out the monthly calendar, I visit bpl.org to reserve the picture books for the month and pick them up at my local library branch.

TechGoesHome.org

http://www.techgoeshome.org

Visit the Early Childhood section to find an annotated list of free and inexpensive apps for ages 3-6. Visit the Courses section to find a list of free technology classes (with the option to purchase a netbook computer for $50) available for children and adults at schools and community centers throughout Boston.

Receiving the #Pages4Progress Education Activist Award at World Education’s Annual Dinner

Last Friday evening, I had the honor of attending World Education‘s Annual Dinner at the Artists for Humanity Epicenter in South Boston, where I was the proud recipient of the #Pages4Progress Education Activist Award. It was an incredibly energizing feeling to be a part of an event full of humanitarians dedicated to global education, not to mention the abundance of food and drinks, the futuristic gallery atmosphere, and the rhythmic live music.

I was really stunned when I visited the World Education offices a few weeks ago, and Erin Doheny and Danielle Klainberg presented me with an invitation to the Annual Dinner and asked to recognize me for my #Pages4Progress Summer Reading. Reading is an absolute pleasure for me, and it was not at all difficult to log my pages. However, receiving this award certainly made me feel validated that writing about my love for literacy on this site is, in fact, making an impact. I also think that, in my work with K-8 students, it sets a great example to show them that, just because of reading and writing, I was able to connect with people and attend an incredible celebration. Thank you to World Education for making me feel so proud!

Here are some of my favorite photos and even a video from the event!

My Husband, David

Thank you so much to my husband, David, who always picks up my books from the library. I would not get all this reading done without him.

Literacy Selfie: David Dines and Jennifer Dines (me!) – We were so happy to be out on a Friday night!

Artists for Humanity

Artists for Humanity is a Boston-based organization that provides underserved youth with arts-based employment. Their LEEDS-certified Epicenter felt modern, spacious, and airy – and absolutely full of life!

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Proudly Holding Up the Program at The Artists for Humanity Epicenter

Group Saloum

Afro-Pop band Group Saloum provided the evening’s soundtrack.

Table Eight

David and I were seated at Table Eight with some wonderful company.

I was so happy to see a familiar face – Pamela Civins, Executive Director of Boston Partners in Education. I have had Boston Partners tutor volunteers  in my classroom. They always treat my students like gold, and the students always look forward to the day when their special tutor comes ! My students and I have also been fortunate enough to participate in The Big Cheese Reads.

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Pamela Civins (left) and I (right)

We also made some new friends!

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Me and Dr. Thomas Winters of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network

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Me, Lori Winters, and Nanette Brey Magnani

World Education Award: Mr. Abdou Sarr

The evening’s primary honoree was Mr. Abdou Sarr, Country Director of World Education Senegal. The audience was disappointed to learn that Mr. Sarr was unable to personally attend the event because his visa had been denied due to concerns regarding Ebola. Moussa Sidibe, Honorary Consul of Senegal, accepted the award on Mr. Sarr’s behalf. Although Mr. Sarr has established and developed an array of social and economic programs in Senegal, I found it most interesting to learn about his work in supporting women in radio production, journalism, and community discussion.

Abdou Sarr video

A video of Mr. Sarr was presented in lieu of a personal appearance.

Burchfield and Moussa Sidibe

Moussa Sidibe, Honorary Consul of Senegal, accepts the World Education Award from Shirley Burchfield, Vice President of World Education’s Africa division.

EmpowermentThroughMedia Women as Reporters Community Listening#Pages4Progress Education Activist Award

I was so nervous to go up on stage in front of all of the extremely accomplished in the room. However, I just put on my biggest smile, and I tried to stand up as straight as possible. I felt so inspired by the incredible accomplishments of Mr. Sarr. As I accepted the award, I thought: “There is so much more work I need to do!”

It was especially humbling to meet World Education President Joel Lamstein, an incredibly accomplished humanitarian who was in fact present at John F. Kennedy’s announcement of the creation of the Peace Corps in 1960.

Here I am, standing tall, and accepting the award from  World Education President Joel Lamstein.

Here I am, standing tall, and accepting the award from World Education President Joel Lamstein.

It was so exciting to see my name in the program.

It was so exciting to see my name in the program.

There’s No Place Like Home

After the big event, David and I returned home to find our little girls sleeping! Before going to bed ourselves, Dave had me pose once more with my award. We plan to hang it in our home next weekend. Thank you, World Education, for giving us such special memories.

Standing Proud Next to the Piano

Standing Proud Next to the Piano