In this month’s conversation centered on listening, we draw from Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen’s scholarship and storytelling. Dr. Remen is a professor at the Osher Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also the author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings. For Dr. Remen listening is vital to the healing process: “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is out attention… A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”
Through her poetry, Lynn summarized the previous sessions’ conversations. Here is her poem and the image associated with her words:
Welcome to the first Conversation where Pat Berberich, Lynn Santamaría and Cristina Santamaría Graff discuss what it means to be “Becoming” as we talk about our life purpose as well as the way in which we attempt to align mind, body, and spirit. The PowerPoint provides a layout of our conversation as well as the structure of the discussion. The videos capture our introduction to Becoming (Joy), our group name (and YouTube Channel), and our beginning conversation about what it means to “Become” who we are. Not recorded is the follow-up conversation where we invite individuals to participate in deeper discussion about specific topics.
For those interested in learning more about this group, please contact us at: email@example.com
What does it mean to make a promise? What promises have you made to yourself or to others? Are you good at keeping your promises? What happens if you break a promise? How does it feel?
This week I have been thinking about what it means to make and keep promises to myself. I made a commitment that I would be creating, implementing, and posting lesson plans on a weekly basis. Experiencing illness the way I have been, has made me rethink this promise. I’ve actually had to ‘break’ my promise for the purpose of taking care of and healing myself.
I’ve learned a lot about the ability to recognize if the promises I am keeping are actually serving a larger purpose. These past few weeks, in having to let go of my vision for weekly content on EduSpirit, I have felt mixed emotions. On one hand, I have felt like I am breaking my promise to all of you who are following these lessons and are interested in trying them out at home. On the other hand, I have realized that I have to prioritize my commitments. My commitment to health and wellness is more important right now than video recording lessons and contributing to this website using the schedule I had been following. That said, my promise to follow through with my initial commitment of 40 vBlogs still holds, even if their production takes much longer than originally anticipated.
I hope that you and your family enjoy these lessons that my family and I have been co-creating and sharing together. Thank you for your continued encouragement and support. – Cristina
LESSON PLAN – PROMISE
Please remember to cite the lesson plan if you use it for a more public venue by attributing the material to: Cristina Santamaría Graff, eduspirit.org. Thank you!
Listen to the TedTalk by Alex Sheen, “Because I said I would” on making and committing to PROMISES:
Alex talks about creating PROMISE CARDS or “Because I said I would” cards. Use the template provided. The template reads, “Because I said I would.” Write down a promise on the card that you want to make to yourself or to another person. Maybe it’s been something you’ve been putting off. Then give it to someone (for safe keeping). Once you fulfill the promise (it can take a day, a week, a year…) you will ask that person for the card back and let them know you have fulfilled the promise on the card. As Alex says, “You need to earn the card back.” One you fulfill the promise, the card you receive back will remind you that you are a person of your WORD. You are someone who keeps their promise.
For this lesson you are building off of last week’s lesson, PATH. You will be using the same game board you created as a family in Lesson 3, “Path to Wellness.” You are now going to create PROMISE cards that will be added to the other cards. These cards will be questions to prompt each player to talk about specific times in their lives where they have made commitments to themselves or to others. They will also include questions about future promises, commitments, or goals that each person is thinking about making and how to achieve them.
Please email Cristina at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive more examples of board game questions.
Here are some examples of PROMISE questions/prompts:
You will create an autobiographical “topical” map by gathering the following materials (or ones you can substitute for these):
Poster Board or Cardboard
Clay, Playdoh, or other type of molding product
Toothpicks and/or popsicle sticks
Markers and/or crayons
Felt or fabric
The map will demonstrate in a visual, 3-D manner, the landscape of your life. You may focus on your entire life or on a specific timeframe. Within this map, you must add at least 3 representations/depictions of major “landmarks” (or promises/commitments you have made to yourself or another that you have achieved).
Here are examples of 2D representations from online.
In this video, we, as a family are engaged in a lesson plan in which my girls are writing their own story by creating an autobiographical map. An autobiographical map is a way to map out one’s life by choosing a “landscape” of important events that have impacted and shaped one’s trajectory. This video is a part of a series in which our family, during safe-sheltering in COVID-19 times, is working together on projects and lessons that are meaningful to us. The girls, who by the end of each week, are exhausted and frustrated by e-Learning, have demonstrated an appreciation for family-centered lesson in which we are all participating in some manner. Here, in this video, I, Cristina, am sitting at the dining room table with my daughters and am assisting them with thinking about significant events in their lives.
We decided to begin the pre-lesson with a FIRE Ceremony for the purpose of bringing healing to our Earth and all her inhabitants during this time. This is a very intimate snapshot of how we, as a family, gather together in sacred, intentional ceremony. We ask that you enter this space with respect, an open mind and heart, and with healing intention. Thank you.
PLEASE ALLOW VIDEO TO UPLOAD… IT MAY TAKE A COUPLE OF MINUTES. It’s an embedded video, so if you are accessing it from your phone, make sure you wait a minute or two. It should come up after a couple of tries.
Here, as a family, we engage in a fire ceremony that we share with all of you so that you can see how elegantly and beautifully simple it can be. Healing occurs with intention. When there is a gathering of individuals intent upon the healing of the Earth and its people, a powerful synergy occurs. I intentionally only name Fire as the element of warmth, comfort and healing as a way to create an openness for all to witness and to feel invited. This is a sacred space that we share with you for the purpose of assisting you during these times. By actively engaging in the practice of healing, we are, in essence, doing something. Many times, it is by action that we feel we are contributing to the overall good. This is something we (you) can do. It is purposeful action with the goal of bringing healing to ourselves and to every human being who is in need of warmth, comfort and healing. We hope this brings you a sense of connectedness and purpose.
Excerpt from Indigenous Fire Stewardship by Frank K. Lake and Amy Cardinal Christianson (2019):
“Indigenous peoples believe they have a responsibility passed down from their Creator to be stewards of the land. In relation to wildland fire – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health are tied to the health of the Earth. Many Indigenous cultures cannot be resilient without a healthy landscape to exercise cultural fire-related practices on” (p. 3).
In the video below, we are implementing a lesson to learn about indigenous fire practices. This lesson can be found in the section called, “Be Critically/Constructively Compassionate” of Lesson Plan 2, “FIRE” (above). Here we document how we implemented the lesson on indigenous fire practices and land stewardship. Discussions center on a youtube video about cultural burning in Australia. The differences between cultural burning and hazard reduction are explained. What does it mean to be a caregiver, nurturer and steward of the land?
Fire Safety Plan – template for home floor plan drawing
We are in Week 3 of having to stay at home. The girls wanted to “do” something so we looked at the section of the lesson plan that focuses on TAKING ACTION. Paloma wanted to create the fire safety plan using the template provided above. The girls created a map of the home by drawing floor plans of the house. Then, they found all the smoke alarms and discussed an escape plan in the event there was a fire. The girls had a lot of fun doing this. I’d recommend it for kinesthetic learners who like to move and explore. Please watch video below on “Take Action.”
Other Videos Associated with Lesson 2
OTHER VIDEOS ARE FORTHCOMING… PLEASE CHECK IN HERE AT THIS PAGE or, if you prefer videos only, go to my YouTube Channel: Edu Spirit
Román and I were “interviewed” by HOPE at HOME – Dr. Joy K. Howard and Travis Howard, Educators, about home-teaching.
We continued the conversation in Part II. Here we discuss children’s emotions during this time of COVID-19.
Week 3 of Home-teaching: We found out today that all schools in our state are closing for the rest of the year. We also found out today that Ellis Marsalis Jr. passed away yesterday. So many transitions and changes… In this video, we show our girls’ initial responses.
I learned quite a lot today. The lesson was revelatory and has caused me to rethink the rigorous schedule I have created for myself. In the video you will hear my daughter, Paloma, share her needs and concerns regarding the new routine we are experiencing. She has asked for more time with me and I am listening.
This means I need to restructure the schedule. Instead of creating 5 lessons/week I am going to create, implement, film, edit, and write about 2 per week. Now that I’ve edited over 40 minutes of footage today, I know now that to do this everyday would burn me out. I am learning so much about myself in this process. I am learning that I need to recognize and admit when I have bit off too much to chew. So, I am admitting this now – to all of you. I have created a schedule that is unsustainable for me and for my family.
That said, I am still committed to 40 vBlogs during this time. I won’t be able to get them completed in 40 consecutive days/nights, but I will get them done over the next few months. During these times of Corona, I will be committing to putting out 2 videos/week (unless circumstances change). This new schedule will allow me to spend more time with my girls during the day.
The other thing that I need to say now and will say again is that the video represents ONE family’s experience implementing this lesson plan. We are not exemplars nor are we modeling how these activities should or have to look. We are just one family interacting together while learning together.
This lesson plan may not work in the same way for your family as it does ours. For example, if you are in a household of 4 children under the age of six you are going to have a COMPLETELY different experience. That is why you can take bits and pieces here and there. Maybe your “lesson” for the day is jamming out to Johnny Nash’s, “I can see clearly now…” And, maybe, for you and your children, this is a HUGE success – just listening and singing to music together as a family. Remember one family’s experience is ONE family’s experience. No judgment … no “right” way … just be YOU and let your family members be who they are, too.
I also discovered today that these lesson plans can be broken up into several smaller activities. You DO NOT have to follow the lesson in a linear fashion. Rather, you can jump down and jump around anywhere you need to go at a given moment. Further, some of the materials may not resonate with certain families or family members. No worries! It doesn’t mean that you are not a “good” teacher, it just means that this lesson and its content may not be what you need at the moment.
These lessons are meant to be adapted, changed, added to, and revised where needed. So please do so as you figure out what is best for your family.
If you use these lessons more publicly, outside the scope of teaching in your home, please make sure to cite this work. I appreciate it.
Thank you for diving into this experiment I call immediate mandatory collective home-teaching! 😉
MORE VIDEOS ABOUT LESSON 1
THESE VIDEOS ARE MEANT TO BRING YOU DEEPER INSIGHT INTO EACH SECTION OF THE LESSON PLAN.
PRELIMINARY STEPS – GUIDANCE
In this video I discuss “entry points” into the lesson to assist parents/family members in ways to acknowledge and validate their child’s learning. Learning, oftentimes, needs to be flexible and adaptable. I talk about ways listen and, in the moment, be present with your child’s learning. I offer suggestions to demonstrate to your child that their engagement is important to you. This is one video in a series of videos that go into depth about Lesson Plan 1.
Section 2: BE INTENTIONAL
In this video, I discuss what it means to “be intentional” within the context of adopting a positive frame of mind. This positivity can assist children in talking about their emotions in a space that has been deliberately created. Children can express their emotions in many ways including through art, music, poetry, performance, and dance. Being intentional in creating a space for children to express affectively (emotionally) what they need, are afraid of, are upset or angry about, or are happy and joyful about is a crucial element in being present, as a family member, for a child.
SECTION 3: BE CRITICALLY/CONSTRUCTIVELY COMPASSIONATE
In this video, I describe what I mean by being critically and constructively compassionate within the context of family-centered and family-implemented lesson plans. This conversation focuses on Lesson Plan 1, “BEGIN” and explains what is meant by the following questions that are embedded in this section of the lesson: How are we, as a family, working together well? In what areas are we, as a family, struggling or having challenges?
SECTION 4: TAKE ACTION
In this video, I talk about what it means to “take action” – it’s the “doing,” the “follow through,” the “accountability” to one another. From an academic lens, it is enacting PRAXIS since we are combining “critical reflection” with “action.” The critical/constructive reflection process is detailed in previous instructional videos on Lesson 1, “BEGIN.”
SECTION 5: AT THE END…ASK (ASSESSMENT)
Here, your family should go over the original purpose of the lesson plan titled, “Begin.” You will be asking yourselves the following questions to assess whether or not you met the goals of the lesson: 1. Did each family member express at least 2 ways current circumstances have changed or impacted a) the daily routine, b) social activities, and/or c) the family’s interactions/communication? What did this “expression” entail (speaking, writing, drawing)? 2. What are the ways you are going to ensure that the Family Manifesto is followed? What will this look like (daily or weekly check ins)?
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.
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.”
Much love to you all. I send my support and solidarity,
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.
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.