vBlog 3_Home-Teaching in the Time of Corona

Cristina is sitting in front of her meditation table.

Welcome to Day 3.

For some reason it feels like Day 33. The day is now winding down. Here in Indiana it was a rainy day, too chilly to venture outdoors. We stayed inside and worked together and alone on different projects. The girls completed their e-Learning by lunchtime and then were able to work with my husband on finishing up the birdhouses. I’m actually amazed at how well they turned out.

Further, during this time of being completely sequestered in our homes has made me realize how creative we can be when we don’t have the same pressures as before. For example, my husband can build birdhouses right now. He is in-between teaching classes so, in the meantime, he is enjoying hours of doing things he’s been wanting to do like baking cookies, making corn tortillas on the placa from scratch, and, of course, building birdhouses.

And, in my case, I have had more time to learn about filming, editing, and putting material up on social media. I didn’t realize how incredible intense this process of rendering material online could be, especially since I’ve created self-imposed deadlines (e.g., 1 video per day documenting this time of home-teaching and Corona-imposed, social isolation). However, instead of feeling somewhat irresponsible about diving into something I’ve always wanted to do (e.g., learning how to edit digital material) because I “know I should be doing work-related stuff,” I actually feel sort of liberated. I feel like I have time … it’s not an either/or (either editing or working) but rather an and/and (I can both do what I am excited to do AND do work). This said, it’s not that I do not enjoy my “work,” but rather, I am free to “do work” on my own time and on my own terms – to a greater degree, at least.

In this video, I discuss what my family and I did on Day 3. I also talk about creating a work space that is relatively easy to set up.

For those of you who enjoyed the Caroline Myss quotation:

Managing the power of choice,

with all its creative and spiritual implications,

is the essence of human experience.

All spiritual teachings are directed toward inspiring us

to recognize that the power to make choices

is the dynamic that converts our spirits into matter.

our words into flesh.

Choice is the process of creation itself.

Each choice is a creative act of spiritual power

for which we are held responsible.

Thank you for being a part of this journey with me. We are all in this together.

Abrazos,

vBlog 2_Home-Teaching in the Time of Corona: Day 2

Thank you, everyone, for checking in on Day 2.

Today my family and I had a bit more down time. There were e-Learning structured activities in the early morning, but by late morning we were talking a nice (needed) walk in nature. My husband and the girls also had a great time together (in the sun!) constructing bird houses. I mean…THAT never would have happened during this time of year before-Corona. Unprecedented.

We are finding our stride…our rhythm together.

That said, I am realizing that, though I am feeling centered in some ways, I am also having a difficult time focusing on my work. I am going to need to find my equilibrium to harmonize all that which is important to me during these times. I am getting ready to have dinner and to spend the evening watching Toy Story 4 with my family.

For those of you who enjoyed the quotation today:

“The entire Universe is condensed in the body,

and the entire body in the Heart.

Thus the Heart is the nucleus of the whole Universe.

Transforming yourself is a means

of giving light to the whole world.”

-Ramana Maharshi

Much love to you all. I send my support and solidarity,

vBlog 1_Homeschooling in the Time of Corona: Day 1

Today begins Day 1 of e-Learning/homeschooling. So far, there have been some bumps, but, overall, we are figuring this out. This is one story amongst millions/billions of others around the world right now. As an educator of over 25 years who has taught multiple grade levels over the years, teaching my girls at home poses many interesting challenges (and opportunities). I am posting this vBlog as part of my EduSpirit journey and also as a way to provide support and solidarity with all my fellow educators (teachers, students, parents, caregivers, and all others navigating these strange times). Please feel free to comment about your experiences at home and what you are doing to support the children/students in your life.

End of day reflections:

Here are some resources you may want to check out for supporting learning at home. This is just a beginning list. I will keep posting as I come across more.

Digital Museum Exhibits

http://parismuseescollections.paris.fr/en

12 museums: Virtual Tours

Education – Free Subscriptions

HERE’S THE ENTIRE LIST OF EDUCATION COMPANIES OFFERING FREE SUBSCRIPTIONS DUE TO SCHOOL CLOSINGS

Zoo Virtual Tours

https://triblive.com/lifestyles/more-lifestyles/bored-kids-can-take-a-virtual-field-trip-via-zoo-websites/

More Virtual Tours

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/03/16/social-distancing-free-virtual-tours/5060244002/

Virtual Tour of the TITANIC

The Anne Frank House (great site – find VR tour under “Anne Frank” link at the top)

Virtual college tours... huh? Who knew?

Virtual tour of the White House

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ADD MORE RESOURCES USING “COMMENTS” BELOW!

An Honest Conversation, More Grounding and (Re)envisioning During These Times

vBlog_3-14-2020

So, it’s time to get real…be real. As I sit here on a Sunday morning – sequestered in my home (as we all are being encouraged to do during these times of “self-quarantine”) – some pretty deep realizations are setting in. One of these realizations is that reality as we know it is changing rapidly. These changes can be uncertain and scary, particularly when we may feel a lack of confidence in our leaders and the steps (or lack of steps) they are taking toward assuring that the collective well-being is the highest priority.

I am trying to view the changes occurring in my life as positively as possible. There have been specific events I was looking forward to with great anticipation that have been canceled. I have felt disappointment, frustration, and even some sadness. There was one particular trip I was planning to take in late March that I was very excited about. At the end of the trip I was going to visit my parents in California. That reality is no longer. I realize, though, that this is just one story amongst billions of stories. I also am understanding that my personal emotions are connected to and unified with our collective emotions. In this manner, I recognize we are interconnected. I am not alone. We are not alone.

In this video, I get real about EduSpirit and the reasons why I am creating content, specifically vBlogs. During these times of “quarantine” there’s a lot to think about. In many ways I feel it’s a reset of sorts. Making sense of this reset as an opportunity where we can inhale and go inward centers this conversation. I talk about the fire and wood elements (Five Element Theory) and their interaction as a way to focus inwardly to release that which is no longer needed and to (re)imagine that which we truly want and desire for ourselves and for the world around us.

I offer you all this moment of introspection and honesty. I send you my love, encouragement and support.

In solidarity,

Grounding Oneself During These Times

During these times of uncertainty, it is important to ground oneself and to shift out of fear and into a sense of stability. Internal stability is key as we navigate and try to make sense of the information we are receiving – much of which has been confusing, changing or even conflicting. Being out in nature and observing the trees, plants, and animals is extremely helpful in grounding oneself. In this EduSpirit video, I offer my perspective of this grounding process.

Cristina Santamaría Graff_EduSpirit vBlog_3-12-2020

With much love,

A Reflection on Motherhood & Schooling: Happy Birthday, My Dear Eleven Year-Old Daughter

Goya Belén

Today, in the early morning hours, my first born, Goya, celebrated her eleventh year on this planet. I emphasize “on this planet” because Goya has never felt 100% grounded, never fully impacted by gravity. Invoking my husband’s words, “She is like a fairy flittering around with angel wings, never touching the ground.” Goya is a creative, innovative, right-brained individual who does not conform to most of societal norms. She is someone who needs to be reminded to eat, drink water, and trim her nails. Where her younger sister, Paloma, is acutely aware of her physicality and is interested in everything tangible and material, Goya generates a narrative – a storyline – to make the mundane palpable. If asked to do chores, Goya cannot simply make her bed or sweep the bathroom floor, she needs to transform into a character who she associates with the work. Recently, I found her wearing an apron while sweeping and cleaning. She was donning a faux French accent while fluttering around with a feather duster. Catching a few words here and there, I surmised that she was a maid in a large mansion fulfilling her duties for the wealthy owners. In this case, the owners were somewhat nasty and had forced her to clean the girls’ toilet as well as the rest of the bathroom. She was very vocal in her protests while, at the same time, made sure that everything was shiny, clean, and tidy.

As a mother, it has not always been easy to nurture her imagination and fantasies while trying, at the same time, to assist her in grounding her energies. There have been difficult, heart-breaking moments where I have had to temporarily ‘bind her wings’ – so to speak – so that she can attend to the everyday world. In a world that traditionally has valued the practical over the fanciful, living with and learning from Goya has and continues to be a lesson of questioning, resistance, and balance. Because of my love for her and her enormous capacity to dream, I have realized more and more the preposterous nature of schooling. As an educator for over twenty-five years, I have always questioned our educational system and the ways that it sorts and segregates children by categorizing them against a dominant norm. This is the work to which I have always been committed – to fight for children and families who are detrimentally impacted by this system and the ways that it privileges specific norms that only a certain few can attain.

Though Goya is privileged in many ways, including that she has two parents who are educators, her unique approach to being and living in this world makes her (and her father and I by default) question every single educational decision and practice her teachers are implementing. This past year Goya has been attending a new school that, overall, ascribes to a strict behavioral model that rewards very specific behaviors. From day one, Goya has resisted conforming to these expected behaviors because she does not feel that they are aligned with who she is and what she believes in. She questions the reasoning behind giving homework that is not meaningful to her everyday purpose which, essentially, is to be alive to assist the Earth, the animals, and nature in healing (Yes, this is her mantra). She is earnest in her passions and convincing in her arguments. Though she is driven and focused on her goal of helping Gaia, she is inconsistent with the daily ‘expected’ schooling responsibilities of staying focused, specifically in math, and turning in her assignments on time. These behaviors rooted in normalized schooling routines are judged and assessed. Consequently, it is not a far stretch her grades sometimes fluctuate.  

Her father and I, being the educators we are, assist and work with her on math, science, and on her executive functioning skills. She is improving and doing better in school. This improvement, on one level, of course, is important. We commend Goya for her efforts and continue to guide her. However, on another level, I have to ask myself if schooling is changing our dreamer. Here I distinguish schooling from education. Goya loves education and loves to learn. What she struggles with are the norms that schooling places, like parameters, around the ways she is expected to learn. Along these lines, when Goya comes home from a long day at school and then is confronted by 2 hours of math homework, she questions why she can’t have more time to focus on what makes her happy.

It’s a challenge because on one hand her father and I know she needs to learn math to succeed in this world, but, on the other hand, we believe that homework should enhance learning, not drain the student of their excitement for learning. For example, giving Goya two hours of homework on long-division problems that are decontextualized from the purpose or the WHY behind long-division is not beneficial for her, a person who is driven by idealistic, humanitarian goals. If she could be given an understanding of the importance of long-division as a necessary skill for an endeavor in which she may be engaged in the future (i.e., running a business to help abandoned animals) then, perhaps, her evenings doing math wouldn’t be so often marked by tears, frustration, and exhaustion.

I am hardly the first parent to question the purpose of schooling. In fact, I know and have worked with hundreds of families who face similar, if not the same, dilemmas. I am honored to know many families whose children, like Goya, think differently and find it nearly impossible to conform to traditional schooling expectations.

On this auspicious birthday, 02-02-2020 (a palindrome), where Goya is beginning the first year of the second decade of her life, I feel it is important to acknowledge her beautifully audacious and inspirational spirit. She is nowhere NEAR the norm nor do I want her to conform. I speak to all the parents and families out there now who feel the same about their children. Maybe to find balance means to NOT give into belief systems that structure success in narrow, limiting ways. Maybe, because of our amazing children, we need to resist certain practices that feel oppressive and stifle our children’s zest for life and living. Maybe it’s time to question this daily grind and to imagine, in the way our children do, the unimaginable happiness that can arrive with purposeful and meaningful learning.

Maybe we need to rethink everything.

With much love for all of you and your children,

Happy New Year 2020

Vision and Decade Boards, 2020

Beginning a new year and a new decade not only means looking forward to what is to come, but also taking a moment to reflect upon 2019 and the past 10 years. One way to take stock of our life’s journey is by creating annual vision boards. As explained in a video I made two years ago, vision boards demonstrate intent and bring form to these intentions. Creating consciously what we desire through active participation (e.g., writing down goals, finding images that represent our visions) sparks momentum, fuels thoughts, and grounds abstract ideas or hopes by making them more concrete.

In the following video, I discuss what it means to be thinking about vision boards as DECADE BOARDS through which to imagine and (re)imagine our life’s trajectory in patterns. What are the main themes of our lives and how do we go about manifesting the themes that we would like to experience more of? I also talk about 2019 as a year in which many of my goals did not come to fruition. How can we rethink or realign our visions so that they resonate with our highest Self? How do we handle our disappointment when our visions seem to fall flat? How do we recalibrate the way we think and feel about envisioning our present and future? These are some of the questions I answer, particularly in light of my role as an educator and a mother.

May you all have a happy and abundant new year. Much love,

Autumn: Metal Element – “Letting Go” vLog2_2019

The Metal Element – Autumn

Chinese character for “Metal Element”

“Wind passes over the lake.

The swelling waves stretch away

Without limit. Autumn comes with the twilight,

And boats grow rare on the river .

Flickering waters and fading mountains

Always touch the heart of man.

I never grow tired of singing

Of their boundless beauty.

The lotus pods are already formed,

And the water lilies have grown old.

The dew has brightened the blossoms

Of the arrowroot along the riverbank.

The herons and seagulls sleep

on the sand with their

Heads tucked away, as though

They did not wish to see

The men who pass by on the river.

-Li Ch’ing Chao, A.D. 1081 – 1143

Taken from: Beinfield, H, & Korngold, E. (1991). Between heaven and earth: A guide to Chinese Medicine. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Taking a moment today to reflect on Autumn’s energies…

I’m looking forward to applying these understandings to how we teach, set up classrooms, and are intentional in our daily interactions. More vLogs to come.

Introduction to Five Element Theory: vLog_2019

Dear EduTribe,

After not having made a video in almost 2 years, I decided to explore video-blogging again. It’s a challenge to ‘put yourself out there’ in front of a camera knowing that once an image or video is made public there really is no turning back.

I have my students to thank. They have motivated me to get back online to share some of my experiences and expertise with integrating healing and energy modalities into pedagogy. I have decided to make a series of videos that detail the ways in which I have conceptualized using these modalities to create curriculum, set up classroom environments, work with children/students, and set the intention for peace, centeredness, and tranquility in educational spaces.

The first video is a brief introduction to the ways in which I am conceptualizing this series. I hope that this sharing will elicit reflective thought on the ways we can engage students in their education more holistically.

Con cariño,

Toni Morrison: Death as a Counternarrative

El Paso, Texas. Dayton, Ohio. Two cities now forever interconnected in time to horrific acts of violence originating in fear, perpetrated through hate, and executed with cold intent to signal, exalt, and glorify a frightening narrative of dominance and dehumanization. Every eyeful is a litany of blood, grief, and rage. I blink away headlines. Grocery shopping is now a death wish. Venturing out with friends at night, an act of genocide.

If I allow it, fear will swallow me. I have family in El Paso and Ohio. My parents, my brother’s family, my husband’s family, and so many of our friends live in California. Some live within a couple of hours of Gilroy. On my dad’s side of the family, we are Mexican. We are light-, medium-brown-, and dark-skinned. We are born here and are immigrants. We are walking targets for using our mother tongue, for wearing Frida shirts… hell, just for breathing. Spaces we frequent become traps. We might make a left instead of a right and catch a bullet in the temple. When the narrative is death, there is no discrimination. The AK-47 becomes adrenaline. Every ‘head up’ is a game piece. It’s better just to lie down, even if blanketed in your neighbor’s blood.

This fear is real and is being stoked. If we allow ourselves, we will fall victims to the pervasive language of fear that aims to further divide us, scare us into giving away our rights and sovereignty, and prevent us from confronting the miasma of toxicity that chokes our heart and leaves us hating ourselves, our lives, and those around us. We need, so desperately, to crack our minds and hearts open like an egg and wake up. We need to understand that our collective misery has been covertly constructed to keep us from healing ourselves and finding love for others.

These words have been incubating. I have been compelled to respond to what I consider to be a collective manifestation of mass dehumanization. For me, one main way the dehumanization is perpetuated is through our politician’s empty rhetoric. There are no genuine feelings of empathy when policy and practice continue to dictate that human life figures less than weapons’ profit margins. But gun control is not the focus here nor the intended story. Rather it is what Toni Morrison refers to as the “systematic looting of language” or when language is used to dehumanize and to disallow creativity and innovation for the purpose of limiting our capabilities to co-create knowledge and “encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.” She writes, “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence.” I further contend that oppressive language is not only violence but is a weapon skillfully used to annihilate our empathetic capabilities to feel for one another as human beings. When sharpened over time, it is like a scalpel that scrapes away or cuts out that which is determined to be ‘diseased.’ To harness language against a group of people for the purpose of claiming power over them is to deliberately strip them of their humanity. In doing so, they become objects. Objects are easily removed, displaced, or thrown away. And, if the soul is deeply clouded, no guilt is attached to this dispossession and removal.

In waking up to the news that Toni Morrison had died yesterday, my first thought was that she was deliberately providing some balance to the scales. It felt as if her death was a direct response to the mass shootings that were rooted in racial hatred.

Her death, to me, is a counternarrative against violence inflicted upon those who have been historically oppressed because of gender, color of skin, ability, religious-affiliation, and other markers of difference that contribute to the overarching prism of humanity. The timing of her passing feels like an exclamation point in reaction to the disingenuous platitudes of commiseration exercised in front of cameras and read off of teleprompters. Her death is a call for authentic discourse that recognizes that silence between open hearts speaks more loudly than hasty, fleshless words. Her counter urges resistance and the fight against “rousing language to keep citizens armed and arming; slaughtered and slaughtering.” Her death reminds us to stay steady through these violent times, to not yield to fear, and to love each other courageously – gripping hands together as we lead each other through the darkness.

With love,

Quotations by Toni Morrison were taken from her Nobel Lecture on December 7, 1993.