What is the measure of a person? What has made me the person I am today? Professionally, every experience has made a difference in who I am, from learning about the importance of the natural world, to learning how to work with the many different people in my life. Teaching has always be a central theme for me. At the age of six I created a study group with friends and family and we took turns in deciding what themes to talk about and had a lot of fun discussing them. I remember discussing the sadness of leprosy, what berries were safe to eat, and what made a great ballet performance. My mother tells me that one of my favorite games was to be the teacher in my “school house” where I used to give my playmates lessons on whatever it was we wanted to talk about that evening.
What to teach also has always been an interesting question for me. Professionally, I have taught English, Spanish, social studies and environmentalism. If you count coaching as teaching, I have also taught volleyball skills at the beginner’s level. The greatest aspect of teaching for me other than interaction with young people, is that it has also always afforded me the luxury of continuously learning something new. Some might think that teaching a course year after year means that the same material will suffice, but that could not be further from the truth. There are basic curricular goals that should be constant in order to give students in different classes a fair chance to succeed, but with every classroom and every student the experience, the questions and the responses are unique. The challenge for me then, has been to always stay fresh, ready to open my mind to new questions and adventures, and ready to be flexible to the opportunities that come with every new day in the classroom when researching new information, working with colleagues to improve our teaching and program, and overall when working with kids. I firmly believe that young people are always hungry for knowledge. They want to understand the world around them and they want to be challenged and respected as thinking, capable human beings. I have loved to teach because I love to learn and communicate with others.
Sometimes challenges have changed my path, the most recent being the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. It threw my family out of balance, into a sea of uncertainly and change. I deeply loved my long time in Japan, it is a country and culture that I hope will always stay in my heart. Now, our family will have to adjust to a new life, so I am again in new waters, ready for new and exciting experiences that will hopefully continue to be positive ones. Taking Gandalf’s advice, since there is nothing I can do with the time I am given, I only hope to make the best of this new experience.
Life as a teacher has been a wonderful adventure so far. Now with new challenges in my path my hope is to continue to nurture my mind and spirit for many years to come for myself and those that I am fortunate enough to spend time with. I thank all of my friends, students, colleagues and neighbors in Japan for all that I lived there, and I hope to do justice to the many people and experiences that have contributed so far to a most wonderful and productive life. Carpedium!
Phrases that have stayed with me and ideas that help me get through life’s challenges:
“You are what you do and what you do shapes who you are.”
“We cannot decide in what times we live, only what we do with the time we are given.” (Gandalf)
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Gandhi)
“If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it.” (said to me by one of my volleyball coaches at the West Point Volleyball camp when I was a sophomore in HS)
Some Great Non-fiction Books I recommend to my students and anyone else:
Indian Givers and The History of Money (By Jack Weatherford)
Guns, Germs and Steal (By Jared Diamond)
A Distant Mirror: the Calamitous 14th Century (By Barbara Weitheim Tuchman)
1421: The Year China Discovered America (By Gavin Menzies)
Nickel and Dimed: On not Getting by in America (By Barbara Ehrenreich)
Fast Food Nation (By Eric Schlosser)
A few of the great documentaries that everyone should watch (even if they do not agree, they are great food for thought):
Food, Inc (Directed by: Robert Kenner)
Waging a Living (Directed by: Edward Rosenstein)
Farmingville (Directed by: Catherine Tambini and Carlos Sandoval)
King Corn (Directed by: Aaron Woolf)
A sample of movies that I think of as amazing for different reasons:
Twelve Angry Men (original): An excellent movie to analyze human behavior and civil rights
To Kill a Mockingbird: A heart breaking story about racial injustice and the perseverance to fight it
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: A beautiful fantasy full of adventure and courage
The Shining (original): A masterpiece of suspense and true horror, without so much blood
Pride and Prejudice: One of the best love stories that also deals with culture and class struggle
The Gods Must be Crazy: An incredible saga of courage and comedy at its best
Spirited Way (and many others by Studio Ghibli): All ages can enjoy and the Japanese spirit is always evident
Wall-E (and all the Pixar films): Great stories, can watch again and again and enjoy and think about their messages of good in the world
Tampopo (and other Juzu Itami films): Great films to capture the Japanese culture and society. Great themes too!
El Norte: A terrifying portrayal of the circumstances that bring many to run away from the home they love, made me cry
Maria Full of Grace: My heart broke with this one, truly terrifying in its reality for some and the high price of opportunity for some