Injustice All Around Us: Seeds of Learning in Nicaragua

Victor helps to dig rocks to build his own school in Nicaragua

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

-Elie Weisel

Sadly, in 2013 we continue to see injustice all around us. Injustice happens when decisions are made by leaders, bullies, and those who think they know best. Injustice hides in boardrooms, workplaces, private homes, and government. Injustice isn’t just a product of wars and fighting between countries; injustice happens right outside your front door every day.

Elise Weisel lived through one of the most publicly horrific episodes of injustice in the modern world, but if we travel to many, many countries today we see the same oppression, the same powerlessness of the people, the same pain.

Too many people avert their eyes from injustice. It’s painful to watch, and even more painful to be immersed inside it when it’s all around us. But we don’t need to be cartoon crime fighters to chip away at the injustice all around us-we simply need to take one step forward.

To me, education is the great equalizer for injustice. As Americans learned from our times of slavery, education is power. Education cannot be taken away from us. Education leads to enlightenment. In America, educators and parents work hard to create and sustain an education system with equal access for all. In my career, equal access hasn’t meant an inability to learn in an actual building, with real desks, and basic supplies.

When I learned about Seeds of Learning in 2009, I felt that I had found a place where I could make a difference, a place to help right the injustice of a lack of education. Seeds of Learning is a non-profit group dedicated to improving education in central America, right now specifically in Nicaragua.

I’ve written before about the life-changing experience my children and I had when we traveled to Ciudad Dario, Nicaragua, in 2010. After years of listening to their pleas to return, we are organizing another trip to Ciudad Dario this summer to help build an addition to a high school, and to improve global citizenship between the two countries.

If you’d like to learn more about our trip and support Seeds of Learning, please click here to visit the link to our Indiegogo campaign:

Don’t let the bullies win. Decide where you want to speak out, help out, or work towards righting injustice. It doesn’t mean you need to travel all the way to Nicaragua, or take on something huge. It just takes a little step forward to make a big impact.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena”:Taking Risks

Risk map in Wikipedia.
Risk map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember as a little girl spending countless hours hunkered over the board game, Risk. As the air conditioner cooled our house from the scorching heat of northern California valley summers, my elementary school friends and I would hunker over the globe, carefully strategizing our next move against countries I had never heard of before. We never imagined our world as a constellation of vital phenomena. Marching our players across the flattened, cardboard world, we had no more desire for world domination than any other nine-year-old. I believe we simply wanted an escape, a way to pass the long, summer day without today’s diversions of the internet, satellite TV or iPads.

In our young minds, the world really did have boundary lines. We assumed that moving from country to country, state to state, would involve some sort of hopscotch game in order to transport ourselves out of one place and into another. None of us had ever left the west coast, let alone the United States. we read Scholastic World magazine, looked at our parent’s subscription to National Geographic, and only imagined those places too far away to really touch.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.
“a constellation of vital phenomena”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We couldn’t transport ourselves with a click of a mouse, fly over the South American jungles via Google Earth, or even comprehend the idea of one day setting our own two feet in the dust of a Nicaraguan road on a quest to discover what was really happening beyond our boundaries.

One roll of the dice, and our players advanced in the game, one more move towards occupying every territory and eliminating the other players. I remember the tickle of my tongue as I tried to pronounce “Kamchatka”, and the giggles when we landed on “Yakutsk“. Ural, Ukraine, Mongolia, Indonesia…our black and red players marched forward capturing one continent after another in our imaginary world where the Earth’s boundaries really were drawn in the sand, and the people there merely tokens in our game.

It wasn’t until nearly forty years later that I stopped to think about Risk and what it taught me.  I sorted through the pieces in my mind,  doing a quick Google search now and then for the new names of those foreign lands. I remembered the coolness of the linoleum floor as we lay prone for hours and hours, never wanting the game to end. I realized the damage it might have done as we learned from such a young age that the name of the game was to conquer at all costs, and I realized that actually, what it taught me was that what we do effects others. Our strategies impact lives. We may be divided by those imaginary boundaries, but we all share the same space together on Earth, despite where the lines are drawn or the battles fought. We are interdependent, reliant on each other to play the game. To break down the boundaries. To roll the dice, sometimes not knowing where we’ll end up, but knowing where we’d like to go.

To take risks.

This post was inspired by the novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. In a war torn Chechnya, a young fatherless girl, a family friend, and a hardened doctor struggle with love and loss. Join From Left to Write on May 20 as we discuss Anthony Marra’s debut novel. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. To purchase your own copy, visit http://amzn.to/XWBaxN.

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Not Empty Vessels: 21st Century Learning and the Common Core

Are today’s teens really empty vessels? I think not. Today I’m excited to be presenting at the California League of Middle Schools Spring Symposium. The conference’s focus is “Implementing the Common Core“, which is an area I’ve been working on for the last several years. In 2011 I was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to study global learning and 21st century skills which culminated in a teaching trip to Indonesia, and ever since I’ve been hooked on integrating real life skills and global education into my classroom. I’d love to share my ideas and help you learn to move your kids into the 21st century, whether you’re a teacher or parent.

What’s All the Talk About 21st Century Skills?

I LOVE this video from Sir Ken Robinson, who I consider a guru of modern education. If you’ve never seen an ARA Animate video, you’re in for a treat!

Economics play a huge part in globalization. Parents and teachers want to prepare kids to enter the changing job markets, but we don’t really know for sure what the economy will look like when they enter the work force. Countries also want to figure out how to hang onto cultural identity while preparing the next generation to work in a shrinking world, where it is necessary to interact with people from many different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

The problem is that our education system is trying to meet the changing needs of our world by doing things the same way they’ve always been done. And as Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

What are 21st century skills?

English: Framework for 21st Century Learning
English: Framework for 21st Century Learning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

21st century skills student outcomes (in the rainbow) explore life and career skills, learning and innovation skills, information, media and technology skills, and core subjects with 21st century themes-current events and topics that are impacting our world. The support systems (in the pools) are ways that education systems can help foster the skills; schools use standards and assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development and stimulating learning environments to help students prepare for college and career readiness.

What’s the connection between the Common Core and 21st century skills?

Some of the strongest areas of alignment between the Common Core and 21st Century Skills come in the English/Language Arts and Math areas. For example, when we look at the ELA standards below (black) against the P21 skills (red), we can easily understand not only the necessity of 21st century skills, but the absolute ease with which educator and parents can weave them into curriculum.

P21 Framework Element against CCSSELA College and Career Ready Definition

 Core Subjects = Build strong content knowledge

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving = Respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline

Communication = Comprehend as well as critique

 Information Literacy = Value evidence

Self Direction = Demonstrate independence

 Global Awareness = Come to understand other perspectives and cultures

Information, Media and Technology Skills = Use technology and digital media strategically and capably

How will 21st century skills help graduates find jobs?

In the 21st century, automation will take over many current jobs, forcing workers to make themselves more valuable in the marketplace. How will they do that? The Center for Computational Thinking at Carnegie Mellon University  believes that by educating our students in computational thinking we can create students who are ready to enter careers upon graduation. According to Carnegie Mellon, “Computational thinking means creating and making use of different levels of abstraction, to understand and solve problems more effectively.” Individuals will need to learn to manipulate data and understand how to communicate beyond just text.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, of the ten fastest growing jobs, five are computer related.

What is global education?

“Global competence is a crucial shift in our understanding of the purpose of education in a changing world.” – Anthony Jackson, Asia Society.

Global education is preparing our students to be college and career ready in the 21st century. According to Tony Jackson, globally competent students must have the knowledge and skills to Investigate the World, Weigh Perspectives, Communicate Ideas, Take Action, and Apply Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Expertise. As technology and travel shrink our world, we need to prepare our students to live, learn, and work with people from all over the planet. Our economies, national security, and the literal future of our environment depend now more than ever on these skills.

Investigate the World

Globally competent students ask and explore critical questions and “researchable” problems – problems for which there may not be one right answer, but can be systematically engaged intellectually and emotionally.

Weigh Perspectives

Globally competent students recognize that they have a particular perspective, and that others may or may not share it.

Communicate Ideas.

Globally competent students understand that audiences differ on the basis of culture, geography, faith, ideology, wealth, and other factors and that they may perceive different meanings from the same information.

Take Action.

Globally competent students see themselves as players, not bystanders.  They see themselves as capable of making a difference.

Apply Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Expertise.

Learning content matters. Globally competent students are lifelong learners.

Is the Common Core just another trend?

There’s debate among educators about what value the Common Core really holds in our education system. As explained in Edutopia’s article, “Two Paths: How Will You See The Common Core”, educators fall into two camps: those who believe that the Common Core is just a revamped version of No Child Left Behind, and others who see it as an opportunity to leverage real growth in our education system. Those leaders who take the latter view see the common core as having three distinct benefits: Aligning the Common Core standards to 21st-century skills and deeper learning outcomes, capacity-building through professional development, and new assessment strategies. I believe that if we take this opportunity to move in a new direction, and keep a balanced approach to education, the Common Core really can provide a foundational structure to creating college and career ready graduates who enjoy learning and are thinking critically about their future, as well as the impact they can make on the world at large.

For more information on Common Core and Global Education, contact us:

Jennifer Wolfe

jwolfe@djusd.net

http://jenniferwolfe.net

Twitter: @mamawolfeto2

FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mamawolfe/135285393226593?ref=hl

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mamawolfeto2

 

Amanda Sharpe

asharpe@djusd.net

http://www.emersonjhs.org/library

Twitter: @labibliotecaria

FB: https://www.facebook.com/amanda.sharpe.752

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/alsharpe

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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On Blogging, Friendships, and Seizing the Opportunity

Indonesia essential oils
Essential oil altar in Tangerang, Indonesia

Last July I wrote a post about turning your dreams into realities.  That was right before I set off on my trip to Indonesia, which brought some of my dreams about world travel to life.

Traveling to Indonesia per se wasn’t one of my dreams; rather, it was the embodiment of pushing myself forward into the universe and seizing opportunities that presented themselves to me.  When I applied for and received the US Dept. of Education grant to study global education, teaching in a Muslim country was not on my radar.  But as the chance to travel to a country I’ve never visited, and likely wouldn’t have chosen on my own, presented itself, I jumped in. I didn’t look for excuses not to, or reasons why I couldn’t go. I just did it.

Indonesia market
Inside an Indonesian market

I started my blog in much the same way.  Just decided to do it and began sharing my stories, thoughts, and life lessons through my words.  I never thought much about blogging before that, but when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it.

I got hooked. Life hasn’t been the same since.

Blogging turned into a creative outlet, a launching pad for my dreams, and a platform to meet people all over the world.  For an introvert like me, blogging created relationships with women I now can call friends.

Two of those women, Val and Kathy created a website, Bonbon Break, designed to provide a space to share their thoughts, wisdom, humor and ideas with like-minded women.  When Kathy contacted me to be one of the first featured writers, I was thrilled to accept.  Since then, we’ve grown our friendships and our websites and pushed ourselves forward.

bonbonbreaklogo200

This week I’ve written an original piece for BonBon Break, “Writing Well and the Readers Will Follow“. I hope you’ll jump over and take a look.

You never know what might be waiting there for you that you never imagined!

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Education Reform: Three Ideas for the Next Four Years

ID-10076117There is no doubt in my mind: the American education system is in deep trouble and needs reform.  According to a recently published report of the world’s best education systems by the education firm, Pearson, the US ranked 17th of 40 developed countries.  Finland and South Korea, leading the study, received high rankings because they “tend to offer teachers higher status in society and have a “culture” of education.”

As a 22-year veteran California teacher, I live this every day.  In recent years, I have witnessed the decline in the culture of education in my community as well as nationwide.  While some might think funding is the root of all problems, I have some other ideas about how we can start to tackle education reform in America:

  1.  Put students first.  We need to start every discussion around the concept of what students need, not what the district needs, the state needs, or the federal government needs.  Students are our clientele, and we need to make decisions as if we were creating reform for our own children.  Thinking about kids first, and creating reform that is best for educating, nurturing and protecting ALL students is the first step.
  2. Create opportunities for student engagement.  America needs to reform our thinking about the primary purpose of schools: is it to churn out a citizen who is proficient at bubbling in answers on a test, or to develop creative, innovative, collaborative citizens?  By prioritizing the arts, humanities, and sciences equally, we allow children opportunities to learn in a variety of disciplines.  Honoring student exploration and discovery alongside standards will help develop confident, creative adults who can tackle the global issues facing their generation.
  3. Invest in teacher training.  Like any profession, teachers need relevant, high quality training to move forward.  America needs to support teachers by providing professional development as part of a teacher’s contract, with time to implement and refine throughout the school year.  Training that is focused on student-centered strategies, led by qualified educators with like-minded goals, will strengthen our workforce and help bring American schools back to the top of the world’s education systems.

So what can we do?  Do we sit back and watch our systems disintegrate, watch quality teachers leave the profession, and see our students stifled, bored, and falling behind? I think not. Now is the time to let your voice be heard. Stand up for education reform – our children deserve it.

*image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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