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Aug. 13th, 2008


A noche soy con Hana

Hope everyone is doing well and ready for the school year.....I am in La Manzanilla, Mexico posting from a small internet shop on a muddy street in the ¨downtown¨area.  There is only one  (unpaved) street in the downtown!  A miracle occured today.  Hana and I went swimming in the ocean, by our casita, just as I thought about a string for my glasses, a wave came along and knocked them off!  Of course, I did not bring an extra pair, so things were not looking good,  nor very clear.......so, I said to Hana, after lamenting the loss, lets just go back in and swim.....as we walked out beyond the breaking waves, I stepped on what seemed like alot of sticks.....I reached down and picked up...............................MY GLASSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Wow and  I don´t have to worry about this being 200 words, or not.  Hope everyone is happy and lovin life.....

Jul. 31st, 2008


Is it the beginning or the end?

As I take a break from planning the logistics of the "Hunger Issues Forum ", I find myself thinking about the fact that I feel as though I have just begun, but the reality is that next week is it!  I am finding it difficult to say goodbye and I probably won't since I will continue to consult and participate in the Hunger Forum.  So, is this the end or the beginning....?
Both, I say.  It is the end of my fellowship/learning curve summer and the beginning of my up-and-running-on-the-same-page part-time involvement.  It will be one of my "adjunct duties"!!!

The real beginning is coming up....next week, in the wee  hours of Saturday morning, Hana and I will fly to Mexico and make our way to a tiny casita on the Pacific Coast, in the fishing village of la Manzanilla.  There, I will spend about 2 weeks deciding every day whether or not to wear my flip-flops down to the water from my hammock beside the casita.  I will be reading "A History", by Elsa Morante and try to continue my ystery novel that I have been writing for the past 7 years.  We will definitely be visiting the alligator swamp and surfing and snorkeling and eating freshly barbecued snapper on a stick and drinking cervesa and aqua fresca and  snacking on pepitas and Jalisco style tacos.  
This is a celebration for us both......still alive and kicking after a bout with 3rd stage colon cancer for me and Hana's journey from the dark, slimy crazy-making tunnel of severe mood disorders (yeah, she's out of the mental hospital :)  ).  You may think to yourselves, how can you joke about such things, but take it from us......it is the only way we can truly turn these experiences into something to cherish. 

Jul. 29th, 2008

koko and kitty

Why this user-pic?

 I have been meaning to post the story of why I use Koko and her kitten, AllBall as my userpic.  Funny thing is, this weekend, I managed to tie up the loose threads of this story after searching for the past 20 years.  After visiting a friend's friend at the North County Downtown Oakland Alameda County Jail on Sunday morning, I decided to go for my weekly "shopping therapy" session at the East Bay Depot for Recycling and Reusable Stuff.  

If you have not gone there, as teachers, you must include it as an important professional resource.  I even take my students on a "field-trip" to make the concept of global warming, lessening our "foot-print'", and renewable resources to the East Bay Depot, and the students LOVE IT....so do the folks at the depot!  
Well, there I was, eye-balling the newest items that I may want to investigate and my gaze fell upon a 42 volume set of leather-bound National Geographic Magazines, each bound as a 6-month set .  

Ok, now this was the dilemma:  Sometime after October of 1981, there was an issue with the above photo on the cover witht the by-line:  Koko's Kitten.  I could not remember when it appeared and in my 'immortal' sense of being in those days, I did not think to keep a copy.  The reason I should have kept a copy is that the article was about Koko being given a kitten to nurture in order to prepare for the (hopeful) time when she would, herself, become a mother.  The article explained that since gorilla's learn how to nurture and care for  their young from other gorillas, Penny Patterson, Koso's keeper was worried about Koko's ability to mother, so she had human nursing-mother-proto-types come and teach Koko how to breast feed....yes, how to breast feed.  I was one of 2 of those mother/baby teachers of breast feeding to Koko!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  When I saw the article, I wrote a letter in the MEmbers Forum and it appeared in a subsequent issue, but which, I could not recall.

Don't you think that Odysseus would like to have copies of these news-worthy articles for his own safe-keeping?  

So, after 20 years of trying to remember when and which National Geographic Mags these two items appeared in, I sat staring at  FORTY-TWO volumes of the magazines.  I closed my eyes and tried to visualize which volume they could be in and began my search.....I began with Volume  167 for some strange reason and when I opened it up, there it was:  National Geographic Magazine January 1985 (Koko's Kitten, Vol. 167, No. 1).  Then, as I thumbed through the remaining 5 issues of Volume 167, I came upon April and the Members Forum letters   and there it was...............................my letter to NG  describing my experience with my 6-week old son, Odysseus, as the nursing-mother-prototype for Koko the Gorilla!
When I went up to the cash register, in a very non-interested way asked, "How much?".........
"Well, we have so many of these damn books from the Oakland Library and we want to clear them out, sooo....$1.00", said the cashier.
"Well, ok, but since I will use it in my classroom how bout a teacher's discount?", I asked nicely.....
"Oh fine, how bout if you take at least 10 volumes for $5...that is .50 cents a volume?"
"Fine by me...."
I then went and selected each of my children's "birth" volumes.....July-December, 1981 for Odysseus; January - June, 1984 for Paola; July-December, 1984 for Blake; and finally, July-December, 1992 for Hana!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And that is the story of my user-pic.

Jul. 27th, 2008



 On Friday, my son, Odysseus, called me from his workplace (public defender's office in Stockton, CA) and asked me to save-the-date:  this Saturday, at 2:00pm, therefore, I had to plan for a Bart trip from  Downtown Berkeley to Misson/16th ST. and I had to be there at 1pm for odysseus to pick me up in time to arrive to the Haight by 1:45.  I had NO IDEA WHAT THS WAS ABOUT.....and this is usually the way we create a special day for eachother (me and all 4 kids, who happen to be 26, 24, 24 and 15).  
I could not have wished for a better surprise!!!!!  He had discovered that a movie house on the Haight in SF celebrates it's birthday every year with the showing of the first film they had ever shown.  It just so happens that my favorite movie of all genres of film happems to be "Harold and Maude", made 25  or so years ago.  As a parent, I ha ve made it a point of all 4 of my children to see "Harold and Maude" by the time they are 13 years old.  Although I have owned the DVD version, seeing it on the big screen was BLISS.  The oher film which resonates with me and I have shared with my children by the time they were 13 years old is the Australian film, by Peter Weir, "Walk-about".  Both films tell a painful, but very real truth about life and it's ups and downs.  Well, I would say that both films are about existentialism and love, perhaps you should watch them first, before exposing your kids to them!  Oh, on a funny note....Hana and I saw "Step-brothers" , last night and those of you who have 30-to-40 somethings living with you................................LOL when you see it!   I love to use film as a teaching strategy with my 6th graders.  I often use out-takes of classic films as a disscussion, drawing/writing prompt.  I love to shake things up when I teach, and have fun in the process!  what about you?  What strategies do you find "hook" the students and allow you to express your passion?

Jul. 24th, 2008

lilo and stich

What makes an effective teacher and what makes an effective learner...

I think an effective teacher is a mentor, friend, confident, good listener, patient, strict, relaxed, smart, funny, knowledgeable, honest, not a know it all, and of course a learner themselves.

I know that some of the points above are opposite of each other,  however, we are only human afterall. I like the learner part myself.  When I am on the learning-curve, I am in a state-of-discovery.  This affords me the wisdom to model enthusiastic inquiry.  I am constantly changing and tweaking  my lesson plans .  I have somehow always been able to recognize when lessons are falling apart, or just not hooking the students.  Since I know this can happen at any time, for any reason, I always have Plans a-z ready to go. 

On the other hand, part of being an effective teacher is setting expectations and being able to recognize "good learners".  Below are a few ideas. 


  • Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration
  • Kindness, empathy
  • The ability to explain in their own words
  • Listening skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Processing skills
  • Love of Reading
  • Willing to make mistakes and learn from mistakes
  • If they miss a lesson they actively attempt to catch up before the next one by contacting the teacher or other group members.
  • They study regularly and frequently.
  • They don't just do the homework set, but review what was done in the class before. When they come to class, they know what was taught in the last lesson and are ready to move on.
  • They are willing to try out different learning strategies suggested to them by the teacher, the coursebook etc.

What are some of your ideas?  Have your fellowships instructed you as to what qualities make an effective learner or teacher?  Have you been able to offer support to your mentors regarding teaching and learning?
I have had  tremendous lessons in learning and teaching strategies at Second Harvest Food Bank.  The emotional and social aspect of learning and teaching are always important to me regarding my ability to forge a meaningful relationship with my students.  My fellowship has taught me so much.


Jul. 23rd, 2008

Sofie Babet

Before you read my post.....

 First of all, before you read my post, please go to the following website and enjoy a moment of happiness!   http://en.zappinternet.com/video/nilSqaMboM/HISTORIA-DE-UN-LETRERO-THE-STORY  The photo of Sophie Babet is another visual that hopefully makes you smile  Yesterday I was at the Second Harvest Food Bank from 8am until 8pm!!!  I was sooooooo  industrious, putting out fires here and there;  meeting at the Santa Clara University Leavery School of Business to seal the logistics of the September 12th Hunger Forum.  It is looking good....we even got a phone call from Senator Bob Dole concerning his legislation about Food Stamps and the difficult issue of finger printing accountability.  It is an excellent coincidence that the media is focusing on the issue of Food Banks serving more and more working families that are living on the edge of poverty, therefore, need support with putting food on the table....If I were making the decisions, I might set up mini-one-stop tutoring centers at the food pick-up sites in order to "plant a few trees with one seed".  Children often accompany their parents to pick up the bi-monthly supply of groceries, since their assistance in transporting the bags of food is crucial.  It is, in a way, an incredible bonding experience that seems to occur  to families that gather the  basic needs to  survive as a family.  I see the glimmer of pride and sense of belonging in the eyes of 10 year old's, as well as the gleeful giggle of the tots in strollers, balancing the 10 lb. bag of rice on their little knees as the family beings the arduous walk home....to where ever home is.   

As a teacher, I often take these "opportunities" and turn them into "teach-able moments".  For instance, this year's Science Fair came upon us without the benefit of  enough tri-fold boards for each entry.  so, I looked at the students with my devilish grin on my face, and said, "Well, you know what I am about to say...."  Diamonique raised her hand, shaking her head in an affrimative manner, big grin on HER face and sang out, "It is what it is and choose your battles because life is short and we need to function-at-the-junction..."  
"Whoa.....you sound just like Ms. P......howdidydothat????????????????????!", blurted out Jai'ere, as he jumped up, walked the perimeter of the room, touching the backs of all the girls chairs.

After brainstorming, Keiko, Jeremiah and Kazaria came up with the plan.....recycle the Ancient Greece projects that had been returned to us from the district office, after adorning the hallways of the HR department for the past 3 months.......Edfrey and Thor pointed out that this may be a plus, since, in their opinions, Science Fair Projects were often not very engaging.....just their opinion and everyone is entitled to their own!

Jul. 18th, 2008

koko and kitty

Have a great week end...

 Today I attended a staff retreat luncheon held for the Santa Clara and San Carlos Second Harvest Food 
Banks 'employees.  The event was catered by a Food Partner Client and about 75 people attended.  It was interesting to see everyone who makes the Food Bank click (giving away over 600,000 lbs. of food a month!), from the drivers to the loaders to the clerical staff, to the human resources department, and then there was little ole' me....IISME fellow sponsored by Intel.  By the time I complete the telling of how and why I am here, it is time to move on....My fellowship has been a gift in many ways.  I am being paid, (which I must attend to in the summer months) to do good works in the non-profit sector.  I would say that my work here, at SHFB is more engaging and life-changing,  compared to my IISME fellowship at Intel, last year.  Part of the reason is that I am so much more relaxed about the change of pace from the school year, in terms of not worrying about the lack of multi-tasking going on.  As many non-teacher friends say to me, "Relax,  you deserve it!".   This week-end I will be going surfing at Bolinas!  I have not surfed since last summer, so I am ready to get my blogging feet wet! 

Oh, and don't let me forget:  lol:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9O6vZTvQl4o

Jul. 16th, 2008


 The mid-summer IISME conference was a great momentum - regulator for me.  I often feel as though I am blogging as a sightless author, using braille, but not being able to feel the braille once I have in - put it into the blog.  Now, this may not make sense to many of you, but I did learn today that I can relax about the oddness of my ramblings, for many bloggers feel that way.  The biggest ah-ha for me were the workshops that I attended.  Actually, I am wondering if anyone did the same as I did, at the blogger-meeting portion of the morning.  I had a difficult time concentrating on what Diane was delivering to us (well, she does speak rapidly) because I found myself perusing the room of fellow bloggers, trying to put a face-to-the-blog!  Of course those of us who post photos of ourselves are a bit easier, but to be honest, the real live 3-d version was a better opportunity to get a sense of the person -behind -the -blog.  I am feeling a bit overwhelmed  with being in the "learning curve" both with blogging and my fellowship work.  Both are challenging and offer me an opportunity to practice and learn as I go...
I hope to now begin the completion phase of both blogging and advocating hunger issues!  It was a pleasure to meet everyone today and I must say, I am proud to be part of the IISME 2008 Bloggers.

Jul. 14th, 2008


2 steps forward, 1 step backwards...

This past weekend I worked as a  "volunteer" at the Crucib.e Fire-Arts Festival.  The Crucible:  www.thecrucible.org.  is located in West Oakland, on 7th.  I have been taking metal working (welding) classes there for a while.  It is extremely expensive, so I take advantage of their volunteer work hours = class credits.  On Friday night, I decided to take my car.  I parked in a well-lit area of 7th, directly opposite the West Oakland Bart Station.  Now, I knew better, so I put the Club on the steering wheel and locked the doors and windows of my 1978 Toyota Corolla.  After 5 hoursof serving about 250 pints of beer, I was off my shift and enjoyed the fire/metal explosions into the night sky.  I was escorted to my car, since it is a pretty dicey neighborhood.  My escort, a rugged-looking metalsmith named Raul, waited as I smiled at him and inserted the key into the ignition and attempted to start the engine.  No good, so I got out of the car after pulling the hood lever and came around to the front of the car with Raul.  As I opened the hood (I decided to take advantage of the situation, and try to impress Raul with my ability to lift the hood, using the oddly placed lever and the long metal stick-thing that holds the hood up).  Surprise.....battery is gone.......so there I was stuck in West Oakland on 7th at 11:30 pm, in the company of Raul, the rugged-looking-metalsmith, until AAA came and gave me a jump, or rather, gave the wires that usually attach to the battery, a charge and then I drove home WITHOUT A BATTERY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  As soon as I shut the ignition off,  we would not move until I got a new battery,or a charge.  Well, I did eventually get a new battery...another story.  I took Bart to the Fire Festival on Saturday night.....amazing....so, my motto is, and always will be, ...it could be worse.....

Jul. 12th, 2008


Writer's Block: Your Dream Dinner

If you could have dinner with anyone at all, dead or alive, famous or not, who would you go with? Out of anywhere in the world, where would you eat?
Elsa Morante, Primo Levi, Lala Eve Rivol, Patrica Highsmith, and Pablo Picassco.  We would go to La Contea, in Neive, Italy (Piemonte, near Alba).  It would have to be in late October, truffle season.........We would begin with a fresh tasting Proseco from the Veneto, then Arneis, a Piemontese white that tastes of almonds and earth.  A Bagna Calda would be brought out to the table,  and we would pass the cardoons around.......the conversation will be AMAZING.  On to the tagliatelle con funghi.......with a Cerreto Barbera, or Docetto....dream on..................

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