Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The One Where I Have To Share My Stories #sol15

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.

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Humans spend a lot of time carving out their uniqueness in this world but at the same time trying desperately to fit in. It's a fascinating conundrum, survival of the fittest. We compete to be better or different yet depend on connecting with a tribe to truly thrive.

It's time to let go of the standards we set for ourselves or that we let society impose upon us. Instead, we need to share our stories, celebrate our experiences, connect with others because of and despite our differences, see the similarities we carry in our hearts, and grow together. 

Let's focus on survival of all.

I'm glad for the We Need Diverse Books campaign, for the writers who participated in this year's Slice of Life challenge, for the team at Two Writing Teachers who hosted and encouraged us along the way, but especially for everyone who shares their stories however they can. By continuing to experience life through multiple lenses we are able to see different perspectives and avoid the danger of a single story. 

But first, we have to tell those stories.

“Don't forget 
- no one else sees the world the way you do, 
so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.” 
― Charles de Lint, The Blue Girl

It wasn't until recently that I realized I have a special story to tell. It's been easy to overlook the fact that my normal isn't everyone else's normal. 

My stories are my own. 

They might be similar or wildly different from those of other people but no matter what, I know now more than ever, 

I have to share my stories.

Thank you for reading my posts this month and for your feedback, encouragement, and support! My stories need readers and I'm glad you are one of them.

To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below:

Monday, March 30, 2015

The One With Many-Faceted Stories #sol15

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.

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Before spring break, I mentioned to a colleague that I've been blogging everyday this month and sharing my story. She was interested in reading my blog posts and said she would e-mail me a link to Chimamanda Adichie's TedTalk - "The Danger of a Single Story". I watch it that night, mesmerized by Chimamanda's smile and her eloquent speech, but most importantly, the story in her words. She shares how easy it is to know one story and to base our understanding of others on that one story. Instead, she invites us to learn different stories - especially varying perspectives on a particular topic. She explains that by seeing one story through different lenses, we can better understand.  
Being a writer, I'm able to see the many facets of a story - sometimes I get weird looks when I come up with an outlandish explanation for something. I think the weird looks come when the other person would never dream of the story I came up with or when I'm imagining all sorts of things and it complicates being able to make a decision. But it's hard to turn off that writer brain! I'm glad that Chimamanda reminds me I need to value my ability to see different angles and to help others recognize the importance.

This year, I visited an 8th grade classroom when students were reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The teacher asked me for suggestions of how students might be able to discuss questions using the laptops available to them in their classroom. We talked about trying Google Classroom and some other options and I looked over the discussion questions in the study guide she was using. When I flipped to an anticipation guide at the beginning, there were True/False questions asking the students to think about themes or big ideas. Immediately, my mind started racing, thinking about recent events in Ferguson and the NPR series, Serial and how media - social media and multimedia - could be incorporated into discussions to bring Scout and Jem's experiences from To Kill a Mockingbird right into the 21st century. 

How powerful would it be to:

ask questions relevant to today's world, 
offer various sides of this multi-dimensional story, 
give them access to resources, 
challenge them to make connections,

let them
analyze, 
compare, 
contrast, 
debate,
draw their own conclusions?

It's hard to do that with a single story.

Thinking about the discussions I would engage students in while reading To Kill a Mockingbird got me excited at first. But then the sadness struck. It's unfortunate that 55 years after it's publication, we are still struggling with issues of equity and equality.

In the book, Atticus says,  "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." I'll never forget that line, discussing what this means, how important it is. I'm glad for Chimamanda and her story, how she reminds us that it is dangerous to rely on a single story, that each and everyone of us can take time to consider different perspectives. 

This month, I've shared some of my story - my experiences and thoughts about my own identity. I appreciate everyone who has read one of my posts and those who have been here to read all of them and all of you in between. 

My story is only one single story but I hope it might contribute to the many stories available to us and to help expand others' point of view. We can have a richer discussion if we add all the stories to the mix.

To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (3/30/15)

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Well...I didn't read as much as I thought I might last week. I was back in revision-mode and trying to keep up with the Slice of Life challenge and also enjoying spring break. I did start The Choreography of Presenting which we're going to be discussing at work. Peanut let me borrow Jedi Academy and I read some of that. Together, we read Saint George and The Dragon and started Origami Yoda. 

Reviewed Last Week:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm going to continue reading The Choreography of Presenting and we'll see if I can get back to Terrible Two and The Mark of the Thief. I'm enjoying them, just struggling to find the time to sit and read. April is usually my month of rereading. I think I'll be rereading this month but I haven't officially decided on which books I'm hoping to reread. I'll share later this week once I decide!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

The One With Quien Soy Yo #sol15

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.

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Years ago, when my grandmother, Mamita, was here for a visit from Guatemala, she and my husband came up with a great game that my family still plays. It's only fitting that this game doesn't require anything special, just paying attention to another person because when I was growing up, Mamita always had a game to play, a joke to tell, or a song to sing. It's also great because everyone can play regardless of what language he or she speaks.

The game is called Quien Soy Yo? which means Who Am I? in Spanish. It's kind of like charades. Each person takes a turn acting like another player - fixing their hair, making a face, scratching their head. It's amazing what little mannerisms you can pick out when you stop and think about it. The person says, "Quien soy yo?" and then acts out something another player does. All the players have to guess who he or she is pretending to be. Of course, it's all in fun but I would say that you have to be cautious - especially with kids - because I can see how someone's feelings might get hurt if you aren't careful. 

I spent the weekend with two of my girlfriends from college. Even though we don't see each other often, we can talk like we're still roommates. It was a reminder of how lucky I am to have amazing people in my life who believe in me. I'm so grateful for all my family and friends who see me, love me, and support me. There are times when I need a little...and sometimes a lot...of encouragement and I know they will always be there for me.

I truly believe everyone wants and needs to be seen in this world. Maybe for different reasons, and maybe in different ways, but it seems like it's appreciated when another person sees us. Whether it's a student, a colleague, a friend, a family member, how might we show people in our lives that we see them? And what impact would that have on the world if we could all feel like we are seen?

To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below:

Friday, March 27, 2015

The One With A White Girl's Name #sol15

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.

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I walked around the room, talking to students about how they've used the laptops in their classroom to research and now to create presentations to share what they've learned. Two sixth grade girls were telling me about what they've learned when one glanced at my nametag.

She looked up at me,
"We have the same name!"

I smiled at her,
"Your name is Jennifer, too?"

She nodded excitedly.

The other girl looked down,
her shoulders dropped,
and she lowered her voice,
"I wish I had a white girl's name."

It broke my heart. 

I asked her what her name was and repeated it to make sure I was saying it correctly. Hoping to show her she was important, that I wanted to know her name and wanted to get it right. It was a beautiful name, unique, interesting, full of personality. But she knew it wasn't a common name. She knew it was different and her verbal and non-verbal communication both told me she wasn't proud of it. I know this feeling of being embarrassed and ashamed for who I am.

But this was her name

I envisioned a 2nd grader opening his lunchbox to see a liverwurst sandwich. The disgust in his groan, cranky his mom would even dare send him to school with that. The sadness in the growl of his stomach, knowing he'll go hungry the rest of the day. The shrug of his shoulders, quickly shutting the lid so no one else will see what's inside.

But this was her name

Names are so personal. They say so much about us but we don't get to pick them. My husband and I spent a lot of time thinking about what we would name our sons. I have a close friend who didn't name her kids until after they were born - wanting to meet them and knowing the magnitude and pressure of naming a child.

I honestly believe most parents think a lot about what to name their kids. I can only imagine this student's parents wanted to give her a special name. But for whatever reason or reasons, society sends her the message that she isn't special, her name makes her too different, makes her stand out, makes her not feel like she fits in. 

Yesterday, I wrote about seeing others, how a smile can make a difference. I believe learning someone's name is another key to showing someone you care. I happen to be good with names and I can't tell you how many times I use a person's name after having only met them briefly or after not seeing them for a long time and they are shocked that I remember their name.

Maybe you aren't good with names, but you can ask a person's name, take the time to make sure you have it correctly, and can say it right. And if the next time you have to ask a person to remind you of their name, that's okay. This is a great way to honor a person and help them see that they are important even if their name is different, or difficult to pronounce, or new to you. 

I believe everyone should be appreciated for who they are, 
and not judged prematurely, unfairly, solely, by their name.
Because each one of us is more than just a name.

To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The One Where We All Deserve To Be Seen #sol15

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.

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This winter, I was in Chicago for a conference at one of the big convention centers. It was the end of the day and the exhibit hall had just closed. On my way out, I stopped in the bathroom and as I made my way to a sink, there was a woman wiping down the counter. When she turned, I saw my aunt who used to work at a hotel in housekeeping. She was dressed in a uniform, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail away from her brown face. I saw kindness in her eyes. Thinking of my aunt who worked for many years in a similar (thankless) job, one that not many people would envy, I smiled and started talking to her in Spanish. 

I know for a fact that a younger me would have smiled or said hi, but probably wouldn't have engaged in as much conversation as I did now. I've changed over the years, I've learned to not be ashamed of speaking Spanish or embarrassed to talk to the Hispanic woman who cleans the bathrooms. I'm happy that identify more and more with being Hispanic. But it makes me sad because there was a time when I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

It was an emotional moment. 
I thought of how much I love my aunt. 
I thought of how proud I am of my heritage. 
I thought of how I see myself in this hard-working, Hispanic woman cleaning the bathrooms.

Later that week, I was walking down the hallway of a school while class was in session. It happened to be one of our schools with a low Hispanic population so it doesn't have bilingual or dual language classrooms. Coming down the hall with a wide broom was a young Hispanic man. His keys jingled as he methodically swept the floor. I smiled at him and he nodded at me. I saw kindness in his eyes, too. 

It was another emotional moment.
I thought of how much I love my aunt.
I thought of how proud I am of my heritage.
I thought of how I see myself in this hard-working, Hispanic man sweeping the floors.

It became an even more emotional moment.
I thought of years before when I was a hard-working, Hispanic woman teaching and learning with students.
I thought of other times in the same hallway when a colleague didn't see me. 
I thought of how it didn't just happen once.
To him, I was invisible. 

I'm not sure why he wouldn't talk to me, why he ignored me. Maybe it was the color of my skin? Maybe it was because I'm a woman? Maybe it was because I'm young? I have no idea. But I do know we all deserve to be seen. 

It doesn't matter 
what color we are, 
where we are from, 
what language we speak, 
what job we do, 
what we believe in, 
who we love.

We all deserve to be seen.

We all deserve a smile, a hello, an exchange of small talk. I have noticed that if I smile first, people usually smile back. Not always. But the ones who have kindness in their eyes do. And maybe the ones who don't could use more smiles in their lives.

To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below: