It’s Hard To Be A Sentence!

On Friday I prepared a cause and effect summative assessment for my students to conclude that theme. Instead of giving them a test, I gave them an multiple intelligence exercise: writing a cause and effect from the story It’s Hard To Be A Verb!, making a drawing about each one of them and then writing a sentence describing them. Here is an image of the exercise and of the rubric I made to grade the exercise:

Cause and Effect Summative Assessment

Cause And Effect Rubric

For me is very important to do a diverse assessment: to evaluate my students in different ways, not only through tests. For me test should not be more than 50% of the summative assessments. That way I give the students the opportunity to demonstrate his or her learning through different learning styles. I have planned four summative assessments for the time of my teaching practicum: two tests (one about comparative and superlative adjectives, that I already gave, and one about verbs, that will be given during the last week of class), one multiple intelligence exercise (the one I gave yesterday) and one Project Based Learning (PBL) product that they will be creating during these two weeks.

My students of third grade are going to have a sleep over in the school at the end of this week, and I will be with them. I need to have an activity for them, and I thought about a very cool activity. At Saturdays, I have a ceramics class at the University. I have almost completed the two required projects for the class, and I still have one whole bag of clay to use. I have thought to use that bag of clay to give my third-grade students a ceramics workshop during their sleep over. We would be creating clay medals. I have always dreamed about giving a ceramics workshop, I love to teach by modeling things. We would be creating clay medals. For doing this I would need the permission of my ceramics professor, because I would need to review some teaching techniques and he must agree to fire my student’s medals with the University’s clay oven. I asked him this last Saturday about this, showing he a lesson plan for the activity, and he agreed to help me to give a ceramics workshop during the sleepover. I will be modeling the clay medals with the students and he will fire the medals in the University’s clay ovens. I am very happy about giving this workshop!

I am also very happy because today we begin our PBL. I structured it a lot in order to be able to complete that kind of learning method with third graders. Here is the lesson plan of the PBL: It’s Hard To Be a Sentence PBL Lesson Plan

The product of the PBL will be an e-book, we are going to create it together and share it with a read-aloud with third grade students of a public elementary school that is nearby. Today I introduced the PBL with the following Power Point presentation: Its Hard To Be a Sentence! PBL

We also discussed the driving questions of the PBL and designed the e-book story (it must be related with the driving questions) and delineated the PBL schedule. We titled the story “It’s Hard To Be A Sentence!” Here is the story design of the PBL, for a group of 19 students (each student is supposed to design and create one page of the e-book): It_s Hard To Be A Sentence! Story Design

The hardest thing of today’s class for my students was understanding the homework: to bring ideas about “imagining” the sentence as a character. I mean: usually, when we want to visualize a sentence, we write just it, but in this story the sentence is not just written text: it is a character, so it needs to have a concrete image, a body, two eyes, a mouth… They got the idea of “visualizing” the sentence as a character after the third time of explaining it, when I explained it with an example.

Today we were told that on May 3 we are expected to go to the University students’ general assembly, so we should not be teaching in the school that day. I already have a coordinated an activity for my students for that day: the read-aloud of their PBL product (the e-book) to the third-grade students of the nearby elementary public school. Because the activity was already coordinated and it took some effort to choose a day and an hour in which both groups could be together, I was told I could come that day to the school. I had barely come to students’ assemblies, I came to two the last year and I had a lot of anxiety when I was there because I am usually against strikes, and my University campus is very well known for its students’ strikes. I had rarely agreed with doing a student strike, although I had collaborated with food to those students who chose to make a strike because no matter how disagree I could be with that they are human beings and they need food and water. Some people insist we should behave as victims of the powerful, of our limitations, of our lack of resources, of what we can’t do, of all the kinds of crisis that our society faces… I don’t agree with that. I think that we all are always able to keep working and shape ourselves according to what’s inside of us and according to the best person we can be in every circumstance, and by doing so, not by engaging in strikes, we are able to create a better outcome for everyone and for our country. I believe that all my students have the capability to define themselves as person according to who they are meant to be, and my duty as student teacher is not participating in strikes, but to help them to be the best person they can be. This is my opinion. I understand that each student has his or her own approach to strikes and I never have sought to impose to anyone my anti-strike vision. My style of fighting for a better learning community is by investing my class time in affirming the best personal growth possible of those who I am called to serve and teach, not by investing my class time in opposing to someone or something with a strike.

I probably will be going to the students’ assembly as soon as the PBL read-aloud is over. It is important to go, because part of being an University student learning to hear all voices democratically and respectfully, even if you don’t agree with each other.

Let’s keep growing!

A Risky Adventure

These days I had been teaching cause and effect and planning a PBL for the next week. It was supposed to begin today, but the students had been arriving late to my classroom (they have music, physical education or arts before my class) and we lost a class day due another power outage, so I needed extra time to finish the previous lesson plan.

Planning a PBL for third graders is a risky adventure. It needs a lot of structure, and that takes time. I first planned a one week PBL. Due the lost time, I reduced that lesson plan to four days and presented it to my mentor teacher. I still have two more things to cover before classes are over, so I couldn’t extend the PBL more than four days, or so I thought. When my mentor teacher read it, he told me that I could merge one of the next themes into the PBL and extend it to seven days. For him was important to extend the PBL because in the classroom quality is better than quantity. He is right: a seven days PBL is way more better in quality terms. The product of the PBL will be shared with the third grade students of a public school nearby. I want my students to learn to serve others with their learning, and to socialize with kids that are not of their own learning environment.

Today we had the Poetry Recital try outs: all the students recited the poem “The Voice,” by Shel Silverstein, my mentor teacher and I scored them with a rubric and the ten best scores received an invitation for their parents to the Poetry Recital in the library at May 25. The student who got the eleventh best score began to cry when he knew he would not be able to recite the poem in the final Poetry Recital. I talked with my mentor teacher to see if we could squeeze one student more, but my mentor teacher thought that it was better to help that student to learn how to lose. I am a student teacher who still needs to learn a lot about children, so I did what he suggested me. Learning how to lose is a necessary lesson in this life. Some learn it sooner, some learn it later. These are the kind of lessons that are necessary for helping our students to grow as person, not merely helping them to know some skills.

Let’s keep growing!

Growing Opportunities

Today I had plenty growing opportunities. The first thing I did today was completing and correcting the Power Point presentation for tomorrow’s class (it was supposed to be for today’s class, but they came late to class and I used another shorter material), that is aimed to discuss the reading of It’s Hard To Be a Verb! from the cause and effect perspective. This presentation integrates the enduring understanding of the lesson plan: knowing the causes of what we do can help us to change our behavior.

Later I printed, folded and prepared the invitations to our celebration of English Week: the poetry recital of Shel Silverstein’s poem The Voice. Here is an image of the invitation:

PoetryRecitalInvitationEnglish Week Invitation 2

When I went to the library for printing I discovered that the school is having a book fair this week. I love book fairs! I was among the first ones to see the available titles. I went to the classroom to tell my fellow student teachers about the book fair and then I went with them to pick some books. I saved some money last week by eating Chef Boyardee at lunch instead of buying food, so I was able to buy three books for my students: one of National Geographic about famous failures, a graphic novel of Shakespeare and a coloring book about the Dalai Lama. These books will be the prizes for the first three places of the English’s week Poetry Recital. I liked the famous failure’s book so much that I wanted one for myself, but there was only one copy left in the book fair. I ordered it and the librarian will tell me on Wednesday if it is on stock. Here are pictures of the book fair and of the books I bought for my students:

bookfair1

bookfair2

bookfair3

At English class, we first talked about how much we all enjoyed the field day, about what we did on weekend and about the English week. This Wednesday they will have trials for the Poetry Contest (only ten students can participate in the final Poetry Recital) and they need to know it for practicing the poem prior that day. Some of them already know it! I showed them how to recite a poem by reciting myself a poem that I wrote when I was in high school for reciting it in my graduation. The poem is in Spanish, but it works to show how a poem can be recited. The poem is titled Desideratum. I recited it to my students by memory because I still remember how I recited it when I graduated from high school:

 

Yo creo en mis sueños

Vivo, lucho por ellos.

Cada instante en vuelo

Me remonto alto al cielo.

 

Ser estrella es mi fin

Siempre seguir, vivir

Proseguir, feliz ir,

Cual el viento existir.

 

En mi ser tengo fe

Hallo fuerza y poder

Yo digo “lo lograré”

Todo, sé lo podré.

 

Me Abrazo a Su mano

Y de Él yo me fío

El camino trazado

Recorreré sin desvío.

 

Sea bueno, sea oscuro,

Será lección, será paso

Cuando llegue el futuro

No miraré el ocaso.

 

Mis ojos contemplarán

El albor de otros sueños

Y alas me surgirán

En pos de sus destellos.

 

Con el alma engrandecida

Y el espíritu aventurero

Emprenderé nuevas vías

Recorreré nuevos senderos.

 

Mas mi corazón aquí queda

Entre sueños y quimeras

Ya mi niñez se aleja

El futuro me espera.

 

Cuando mire hacia atrás.

Y vea el camino andado.

Mi alma con gozo gritará.

“Lo logré, he triunfado”.

 

After talking about the Poetry Recital, we discussed some vocabulary words of the reading and some details of its story elements. They wrote in the white board the words they didn’t understand and we learned their meanings together. There was a word that was particularly problematic: the word “sitter”. They all thought it was a person who cares a child, like in “baby sitter”. However, in the story it means something else. I asked them to read the sentence where that word that used to see if they could discover the word’s meaning with its contexts. They read the sentence and they were able to discover the word’s meaning: in this story, “sitter” means “chair.”

I was supposed to be interviewed last week by the professors of the Differentiated Education master degree as part of my process of admission, but then the power outage happened, the Faculty of Education student dean told me that all the activities were cancelled and I left the University without being interviewed. They called me later to let me know that they would be making the interviews in another place, but when I got their call I was too far away to come back to the University. Well, after today’s class that interview was rescheduled for tomorrow at 3:00 pm. I will take it as another growing opportunity, no matter if they admit me or not.

Let’s keep growing!

 

Reasonable Accommodation

What is reasonable accommodation? Let’s begin with the definition given by United Nations in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

“Reasonable accommodation means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” In the United States, including Puerto Rico, federal law requires that reasonable accommodations be made for employment, education, housing, courts, and public services. Refusal to make an accommodation is equal to discrimination.

How would I define it in my own words? I would say that reasonable accommodation are some adaptations that are made in order to make possible that the person can function successfully in a concrete environment according to a certain set of rules. What I mean with “function successfully”? I mean that the person can accomplish what is expected to everyone in the same position. What I mean with “concrete environment”? I mean that reasonable accommodations are applied to specific environments. For example: if you can’t swim without assistance, you won’t have that need mentioned in your college reasonable accommodation letter, except if you’re enrolled in swimming classes. What do I mean with “according to a certain set of rules?” I mean that reasonable accommodations are made in relation to some specific standards that are meant to be applied to everyone, not only to the persons with diverse functionality. For example: when a student enrolls in a class his learning must be graded by the class’ professor, that is a rule that is expected to be applied to all University students, no matter if they are functionally diverse or not.

How reasonable accommodation works? It varies. In school, it works as part of an IEP (Individualized Education Program; in Spanish: PEI). I never had one of these. I knew how to blend myself in order to get along. Learning like anyone else was a struggle for me through all my school years. My teachers made some “reasonable accommodations” by their own because I was a “brilliant and creative student” that evidently do not fitted the ordinary circumstances. For example: I was allowed many times to spend more time in the library or in creative projects, instead of being bored in the classroom. The problem was that because there was no IEP, this depended solely in the good will of every teacher. Some teachers allowed me to learn my own way, some didn’t. Some teachers even considered that the adaptations that were made for me where “privileges” that I shouldn’t have. For those teacher, I should learn to be like all other students. When the teachers didn’t make any adaptation, my frustration was a huge problem, I visited the social worker (she was like my counselor) a lot because of that.

Why I never got an IEP through all my school years? Because I learned to compensate my diverse functionality with my giftedness since very young and the schools where I studied both were diverse enough to integrate my twice-exceptional learning style without needing an IEP. For example: I remember myself in kindergarten observing what my classmates made in order to I do the same. I didn’t process the oral instructions, but I did the correct work because I observed what the others were doing. No one taught me this coping system for not understanding the instructions, I realized it by own because I wanted to be able what I was supposed to be doing without any help (I had a strong independent tendency). This was one of the most common coping systems I ever used during my school years. I created many copying systems like that one, that no one taught me, just to do things like my classmates. Another factor to never getting an IEP was that although I clearly did not fit within the normal expectations of all students, I was simply considered a “brilliant student”, so some of the factors that would have been identified in other students as symptoms of ADD or may be Auditive Processing Disorder in me were considered simply a natural part of being “brilliant”. For example: I got bored a lot of times and began to draw and daydream in the classroom, but instead of considering that a problem, I was given time and space to do it in my own terms because I usually ended classwork faster than my classmates once I got the instructions right, so I could have time to spare watching the sky, coloring or creating something. So, I grew up as a “different student”, never as a “disabled student,” and I am grateful of growing up without “disability” labels. My greatest academic problems where maths and sciences, but I achieved A’s and B’s even in those classes. I only got two C’s in my whole school years, both in High School, one in trigonometry and one in chemistry. I repeated trigonometry in summer and got and A. It all depended in how the classes were assessed.

The problem with grades began in college, when I couldn’t compensate any longer and I began having more C’s and D’s, and to fail classes. The first year in the Faculty of General Studies was a dream and easy as eating cake because I love to read (you need to read a lot in first year) and the assessment was mainly essays made at home or tests where made in laboratories. The problem began from the second year and beyond, when I began to fail classes despite all my efforts to pass them, or would have a lower grade than expected for my huge efforts. The circumstances of each failure or underachievement were varied. Among the possible reasons of underachievement or failing were:

-The class was assessed solely by test that depended mainly in memorization of information. I was unable to memorize big chunks information.

-The class were given solely via sequential conference, without any visualization of the information. That meant that I was responsible to visualize all the information by my own, and that can take a lot of time.

-The class assessment depended solely on auditive memory or grammar-translation method, so it was impossible for me to learn something because I do not learn with any of those ways. This happened a lot with learning third languages.

-The class had a specific schedule for delivering exercises and works and I forgot to give them due completely forgetting the delivery date. This happened specially with writing courses: the professors considered me a gifted writer, but I was unable to remember when to give them my works, so I had a bad grade or failed the class simply because not delivering the class works on time of forgetting to deliver them.

-The class had a specific time sequence, like Public Speaking class, and I had no coping mechanism to compensate my lack of time awareness. I am very good at spatial awareness, but I am a mess with calculating time.

-Sometimes I confused the numbers of the test schedules, so I would go the test in the wrong time or to the wrong classroom. For example: if the test was a “8:10, I would read “18:00”, or if the classroom said “12”, I would read “21”.

-I failed some classes simply because was unable to write the test by hand, my handwriting was illegible. I am, in general, very good at writing essay tests, but I am very bad in writing by hand, it was even painful to me. No matter how much I studied about the material, the handwriting was illegible so I could express my knowledge.

-Sometimes I did not hand my works on time due perfectionism: the work was never good enough for me.

A doctor made my first reasonable accommodation letter in 2009, for attention problems. However, it was worthless: the University where I studied at that moment, the University of Navarra, refused to accept the reasonable accommodation letter made by my doctor in Puerto Rico for them because in Spain “those letters were not used” and “the University did not have services for special education students” (sadly, I am quoting literally what I was told in the ecclesiastical faculty of theology). I do not wish to anyone the dreadful experience of finally achieving your academic dream, being accepted in an institution for studying theology and philosophy, and then failing some of your ecclesiastical faculty classes, the “easiest classes of the whole University”, miserably just because you did not had reasonable accommodations available. Eventually I developed test anxiety and psychological trauma (the trauma was not only due forced class failing, but it was part of it), that I overcame with proper treatment and support from the University of Puerto Rico. My shook was double because, as far as I knew, if a university had access to federal funds they must honor reasonable accommodations. I studied in Spain thanks to federal student loans, so if the University of Navarra students had the privilege of being able to request US federal students loans if they were US citizens, like I am, I always assumed without asking prior enrolling the University that they must honor reasonable accommodations according to ADA law. I was wrong, and I discovered it the hard way: when I brought the reasonable accommodation letter they had no idea of what reasonable accommodation was, nor had any interest in learning how to make similar adaptations that could be applied to the Spanish educational culture and would have allowed me to pass the classes I failed. “You need to learn how to be a normal student” was the kindest comment I heard about reasonable accommodations there. I don’t think they did this on purpose, the main issue was the discrepancy between Spanish higher education system and US higher education system. Spanish higher education system is not as inclusive as higher education system in United States. In Spain university assessments mostly depend solely on tests, and they are designed by default to be tests that not every learning style can pass. For example: in Spain, if you are in college and you don’t have the short memory, the attention or the handwriting to write and pass the test, you won’t be usually offered any other kind of assessment because that is not their way of doing things at University. If you are not able to do those things, you simply should not study a career in the University but in something they call “Professional Formation” (in Spanish: “Formación Profesional”, or “FP”).

I tried to get a reasonable accommodation letter for studying in the next university after University of Navarra, but I was unable to demonstrate my failed classes at the Ecclesiastical Faculty of the University of Navarra due a technicality: the Ecclesiastical Faculty of the University of Navarra did not wrote my real grades on the transcripts. Instead of writing the failings I got in some tests, they simply wrote “No presentado”, what means that I simply did not presented to the tests. I discovered this too late to claim it, after I returned to Puerto Rico (I was so frustrated and impotent with the whole situation that I was living that when I left the University of Navarra I only requested one transcript of the ecclesiastical faculty and I only opened it when it was strictly necessary: for discussing it with the new faculty I enrolled; I never requested a transcript of the graduate classes in Philosophy, which I did passed with huge efforts). They probably did this believing that they made me a favor by avoiding to write a low grade in my academic transcript, I knew many students requested the professors to write them a “no presentado” if they did not pass the test. For me it was not a favor: because I was unable to demonstrate that I was failing classes, I couldn’t get the assistance I needed in the next university. Of course, I failed classes again. I also took a psychometric test just to demonstrate that the failings were not caused by lack of intellectual capacity (the result of the IQ test was 140 but I was unable to pass the simplest Hebrew test). Only then, after I failed again and I lost my academic progress again, I began to receive help.

When I arrived to the University of Puerto Rico to study in the Faculty of Education I was better prepared in term of psychological resources, although I still needed to deal with the psychological trauma caused by forced failing and forced testing. I talked clearly about my lack of reasonable accommodation experiences in the office for disabled students of the University of Puerto Rico in my first interview with them, after being admitted to the Faculty of Education to study to be a ESL certified teacher. They assured me that that would not happen again with them: in the University of Puerto Rico I would be able to access to help before I began failing and the reasonable accommodations requested by the doctor would be honored if possible. For example: it was not possible to make a reasonable accommodation for not taking tests at all, but it was possible to make a reasonable accommodation that states that the professor must take into consideration that the student have problems with memorization. That way my assessments could not depend solely on memory-based tests.

To give you an idea of what reasonable accommodation is, here you can see (in Spanish) my reasonable accommodation letter of the University of Puerto Rico:

Carta Acomodo Razonable

The signatures are the signatures of my professors and my mentor teacher. Each one of them have a copy of this letter and have agreed to follow its guidelines. With this letter I got a B in an elective and “easy” Humanities class whose assessment depended 75% on memory-based multiple choice tests. Besides that class, all other classes’ assessment depended 50% or less in memory-based tests, and I passed them all with A. My usual problems are needing to clarify instructions, needing extra time to finish some works, needed to be reminded of deadlines and sometimes needed to deliver a work incomplete because I was so perfectionist that the professor thought it would be better for me to simply deliver the work as it was, correcting it and allow me to make the corrections and then grade me. My perfectionism ended with the professor’s corrections.

A little comment about this letter: the underlined sections refers to the use of Smart Board or projector instead of a whiteboard or a chalkboard. I think it says so a little bit dramatically, I wouldn’t use those words and my doctor did not use those words neither, those were the University’s words. They chose to write it that way because, due my problems with handwriting, being forced to write by hand had caused anxiety in some classes and they did not want me to have anxiety in my teaching practicum. Due that reasonable accommodation the Faculty of Education assigned me a school with a Smart Board available to make my teaching practicum. Although now I do write by hand sometimes and it does not cause me anxiety, I still rely mostly on technology to give my classes and function as teacher. I am a strongly visual, applicative and meaningful teacher: I always have something to visualize the auditive information, I always seek to apply the information and I always try to help students to give their own meaning to the process of learning that information.

So, the difference between having reasonable accommodation and not having reasonable accommodations can be seen clearly in my transcript of the University of Puerto Rico. Prior 2008 I did not have reasonable accommodation. After 2016 I had reasonable accommodation. You can see the transcript here:

Transcripción de Créditos 1 (1)

Transcript 2 (1)

Transcript 3 (2)

Transcript 4 (1).jpg

Transcript 5 (2).jpg

As you can see, my academic progress is way more stable with reasonable accommodation. Beyond the grades, having reasonable accommodation allows you to give your best without being penalized for being how you are. With it there is no anxiety, no trauma, no stigma. I feel functional with it. I feel integrated and part of where I am studying. I can invest my energies in being the best I can be, instead of investing them in being able to do the things like anyone else does. It is also true that reasonable accommodation by itself is not enough for achieving academic progress, not even using Adderall is enough for that. Learning organizational skills as copying system for attention problems and getting psychological support for dealing with the emotional sensitivity and the perfectionism related with being gifted was also necessary for getting a satisfactory academic progress. My problem with organizational skills was that I was insisting in doing what works for others, numeric-sequential based organization, when what works best for me is visual-spatial based organization. My ESL mentor professor taught me a lot about visual-spatial organizational skills, and that was also important to keeping my best academic progress possible. Learning how to organize and keeping track of time with an Ipad also helped a lot with that, and also helped me to get an app to compensate the lack of time tracking skills needed to pass the Public Speaking class. I repeated that class again and got an A.

I made an interesting question in some of my education classes that I should mention here: should I as teacher wait to an IEP to make a reasonable accommodation? The answer always was a no. Waiting an IEP to make a reasonable accommodation when you see clearly that it is needed can harm the kid academically and specially psychologically. It can cause anxiety. It can interrupt or alter the child’s development. It can disconnect the student from learning. Besides all that, not granting a needed reasonable accommodation dehumanizes you as teacher. The need must be informed to the proper authorities (special education teacher and parents) but action should begin as soon as the need is identified. It is also important to never identify a student that needs a reasonable accommodation as a “disabled student” because that is not true: we all can learn and we all have different capacities. Technically speaking, we are all disabled, we all have things that we can’t do, like speaking Chinese. We generally identify people according to what they can do (He is a doctor, she swims, they are artists…), not according what they can’t do, and that principle should be applied to “disabled” persons too: we must define them according to what they can do. We must learn to embrace everyone’s capacities, so we should identify the students that need reasonable accommodation as “functionally diverse students”, not as “disabled students.” I agree with that. For example: a blind student is not a student that can’t see. A blind student is a student that learns auditively, orally or through touch only.

A last curious detail about reasonable accommodation. Curiously, I do not feel “disabled” with a reasonable accommodation letter, although that letter is given by the “Office for Affairs of Disabled Persons” (In Spanish: OAPI, Oficina de Asuntos para las Personas con Impedimentos) of the University of Puerto Rico. With the reasonable accommodation letter I feel, as I said, funcional, integrated and able to be a part of the place I study as how I am. When I felt really “disabled” was prior the reasonable accommodation letter, specially in the University of Navarra. When you can’t avoid failing classes just because you learn different and need to do things differently you really feel like a “disabled” person. I still remember one of the first things I was told in the process of enrollment in the Faculty of Education of the University of Puerto Rico, when they knew I was being interviewed by OAPI for getting a reasonable accommodation letter: “you are not disabled, you are different. Learning in a different way is not being disabled, is doing things in a diverse way”. The fact is that I had never been “disabled” with the reasonable accommodation letter.

I hope that I can help some students with reasonable accommodations to reach their best because I really know the difference that having reasonable accommodation can make. I truly believe that we are all capable of learning how to give our best with the capacities we are given, and I hope to inspire that to my students, specially to those who are functionally diverse.

Let’s keep growing!

 

Ordered Chaos

From yesterday at 4:00 pm until today at 8:00 am I had been in a very dynamic activity: a student camping at the school’s playground. After asking for all the necessary permissions, my mentor teacher was granted the opportunity to make a camping in the school for fourth grade as part of the theme of their English class, the universe. Twenty four students of fourth grade stayed a night at the school. The activity was called “A Night Out Under the UPR Elementary School Sky.” There were activities of several classes planned.

Here is the official program of the activity:

The first thing was building the camp. We organized the tents in a huge circle and left at least one window open in each tent to facilitate the supervision. Here is a picture of our camp:

The principal activity was related with the universe: observing the planets and the stars with telescopes of the Puerto Rico Astronomy Society. First they saw Venus. Then the people from the Astronomy Society gave an amazing conference about the Universe for the students. In the conference the students were able to make all kinds of questions about the Universe. For example: why Titan has atmosphere? Here is a video of a very small part of the conference given to the students, along two pictures:

After the conference the students were able to use the telescopes again to see other planets. The teachers and the parents also were able to see them. Everyone learned a lot, including teachers! The Astronomy Society brought two big telescopes. Here is a picture of one of them:

After using the telescopes the students had a night snack. The parents brought so much food and beverages that we the teachers thought that it was enough food to survive a whole hurricane in the school. We were wrong: as soon these kids began eating, they ate it all. I learned to never defy the appetite of a growing kid, specially if he or she spent the whole morning (the field day) and early evening (before the camping stared) playing and running with classmates.

After the snack the maths activity started. The math activity was also related with the theme of the Universe: it was building a paper rocket calculating the measures and then throw it with air propulsion and measuring how far away it went. Some parents helped with the process of building the paper rockets. Both students and parents really enjoyed this activity. This activity took so long and they enjoyed it so much that the English activity and the Language Arts activity were cancelled. Here are a video and pictures of this activity:

It was about 11:30 when this activity ended. The teachers expected that the student would be tired at this point, but they were not yet! So, we sang happy birthday to one of the students:

After singing Happy Birthday and eating cake, we made a campfire with marshmallows, honey crackers and Nutella:

After the campfire the students went to the bathrooms to put their pajamas on without any of the teachers telling them so. The parents and the teachers smiled: they were finally tired, or so we thought, so we began organizing for going to sleep. The tents were distributed: some for girls, some for boys. Parents and teachers were distributed too in such way that no tent would be unsupervised.

We discovered too late that giving this kids cake, marshmallows and Nutella before going to bed was a really unpractical idea. Soon the kids began running around and playing along themselves, switching between tents. It was an ordered chaos. Literally.

At 1:00 am we needed some discipline to help them going to sleep. We forbid being out the tent, tent switching, cell phones, tablets and flash lights. Even with those measures, most of them still were talking and laughing at 2:30 am. Teachers put on their pajamas at 3:00 am and many kids still were making chatting and laughing noises inside their tents.

At 3:30 some students complained that they could not sleep, so they were allowed to go out and play silently so the ones that were sleeping in the tents could keep sleeping without being interrupted. Because there were students without sleeping, there were also teachers and parents that would not sleep to supervise them. Of the three teachers that spend the whole night camping with the students, I was the only lucky one who slept something: from around 3:30 am to 6:00 am. I was allowed to sleep because after the school camping I had to go to class at the University, I have a class on Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, and after that class I need to drive home for fifty minutes, so I needed some minimum rest in order to be able to go to class later and drive in the afternoon. The other teachers would go home to sleep immediately after the camping was over. Actually, I was supposed to sleep until 7:30 am, but one of the students felt funny enough to enter to my tent spray me a green substance, so I woke up, to stop him from waking up the three sleeping girls that were in my tent. Here you can see a selfie with the thing they threw inside the tent:

At 7:00 am almost everyone was in their way to the bathrooms, although two kids insisted in keep sleeping:

At 7:30 there were many playing around:

The breakfast began at 7:30. We had scrambled eggs, cereals, oatmeal, donuts, muffins, bread, coffee and juices:

I needed to confiscate this to a student because they were doing a mess with it:

At 8:00 the parents that did not slept at the school began to arrive and the kids began to leave. At 8:30 the three teachers left everything cleaned and organized and closed the school without any student being left inside.

It is true that I am tired, all the teachers and parents that slept at the school were very tired, but we all think that this kind of activities are very important for the personal and academic well being of our kids, so it is worthy. Everyone had a blast in our ordered chaos!

Let’s keep growing!

Today’s Adventure

The first thing I did yesterday at the school was correcting my student’s tests. In general, they did amazingly well, I even had several perfect scores. While correcting them I discovered that three students did a part wrong simply because they did not understand the instructions correctly. In the way they did it, their answers were correct, but in the way that the part was supposed to be done, their answers were incorrect. What I should do? After consulting it with my mentor teacher, I went to the third grade classroom in the morning and asked the three students to come to the English classroom during their lunch break to complete that part of the test again. When the break time came, I waited them patiently during thirty minutes. When I realized that they weren’t coming by their own, I went looking for them in the school playground. I found the three students in the library: they totally forgot that I asked them to come to my classroom during their lunch break! They made the test part again, but this time they followed the correct instructions. The three students did the test part almost completely correct!

When those students completed their tests, I could finally grade all the tests. I did it, and I wrote the test results in an excel table that I use as a grade book (I don’t have a physical grade book, all my grades are supposed to be kept digitally).

At the class time I discussed the test. My mentor teacher have an amazing and very practical protocol for doing this in order and avoiding the loss of any test during the discussion, what is important to me because years ago, when I worked as teacher (before studying to be a certified teacher), I accidentally lost a test and I had an awful time due that. How is my mentor teacher’s test discussion protocol? First, the teacher remembers the students that their grades are private and they are only supposed to share them with their parents or guardians. My mentor teacher explained me that I must do that because in third grade they are still learning to take tests and they constantly forget that their grades are private. Then the teacher gave the students their test face down, in such a way that only the student that completed the test could see the test’s grade. After that the teacher discusses the test, asking the students why their answers were correct. It took me so long to discuss the test that I almost did not finish on time for doing the next steps! The next step after discussing the test is asking the students to sign the test in a space, a small circle, provided to them to write their initials after they discussed the test and are agree with the grade. That way there is evidence that they saw and discussed the corrected test. After that, they write their test score in their English notebooks, in a table glued in the end of each notebook. Then they are supposed to give the teacher (me) the tests back in alphabetical order to file them in a plastic document filing box where all their summative assessments are, but I had no time for doing this. Instead, I asked them to give me their tests in alphabetical order and I would file them after the class.

After they left the classroom I took the plastic document filing box and began to file each test in their respective file. Suddenly I realized that one test was missing. I freaked out first but began to think coldly almost immediately: where that test could be if I always had in my hands the folder where I placed all the tests when the students gave them? I thought in several possibilities. The first one, the easiest one, was that the student forgot to give me the test, so I went to ask her. She told me that she gave me the test, so I eliminated that possibility. The next thing I did was checking the working tables to see if there was a test in any of them. There was no test in anyone. Then I realized that I could have filed the lost test in the precedent file in alphabetical order (the students gave their tests in alphabetical order). I mean: if the last name of the student of the lost test begins with “B”, her test could be in the file of the student whose last name begins with “A”.  I checked the files of the last names that begin with A, and I found the lost test! The big difference between the time I lost a test years ago and yesterday is that yesterday I did not spent time feeling awful due losing a test. Yesterday I kept myself thinking were the test could be until I finally found it.

That’s why I did not write a blog post yesterday after my class, as I usually do: I was busy searching for that test.

I made several things for today. First, of course, the new lesson plan for reading and discussing It’s Hard to Be a Verb, by Julia Cook. I will be using that reading for discussing several topics. The first one of them, the one I am discussing in this lesson plan, is the cause and effect reading comprehension strategy. You can see the lesson plan here: It’s Hard To Be a Verb Reading Lesson Plan

Second, I made two handouts for today’s class: one for discussing the story elements and one for discussing the new vocabulary words. These are the pictures of those handouts: Story Elements.jpg

My Vocabulary Words.jpg

Finally, I made a poetry handout for a poetry recital that the students are going to have on April 25 to celebrate English week. The chosen poem for the recital is the one that I proposed, “The Voice,” by Shel Silverstein. They need a handout of the poem for memorizing it for the poetry recital. Here is the picture of that handout:

The Voice.jpg

About thirty minutes before my class the school (along one million of Puerto Ricans) had a power outage, so my lesson plan needed to change because I couldn’t use the Smart Board to show the You Tube read-aloud video. Instead of using a You Tube video for making the read-aloud, I practiced making the read-aloud myself. Two days ago I transcribed the whole story in a single Word document and printed a copy for each student for use them in case of any technological failure, like this one, that do not allowed me to use the You Tube read-aloud video that allows me to show the book pages to everyone at the same time. I practiced the read-aloud by hearing the You Tube read-aloud with my iPad (my iPad has cellular internet). I also practiced the wiggle dance of the story, so I could do it while reading the book to make my students laugh. At the end, giving the class without power made it more fun. I gave a printed document with the story to each student so they could follow the read-aloud, I showed them the images of the story as I read it, and we did the wiggle dance. Another student teacher was so kind she took pictures of me giving class today and sent them to my What’s App. These are the pictures of today’s adventure without power, as my mentor teacher called it:

April12A

April12B.jpg

April12C.jpg

Although I give class to the third grade, I usually work in the fourth-grade classroom because that is the English classroom. Tomorrow is the school’s field day, and the whole school is going to wear the same t-shirt but each group is going to wear accessories of a color. I was told, very seriously, that if I come tomorrow with the color of fourth grade and not with the color of third grade I would be considered a traitor. Oh my goodness, I can’t be considered a traitor of my own students, I told them. I asked them which is third-grade color, and I was told by them that their color is marine blue. Then I asked fourth graders (I will be with them tomorrow for an extracurricular activity after the field day) which is they color. They answered: marine blue. I raised an eyebrow: the two groups have the same color? I asked further among teachers and I was told that there are two competitions in the same field day: one for kindergarten to third grade, and one for fourth grade to sixth grade. That’s why both groups wear the same color: they are in different competitions. So, I told third graders, tomorrow I will be wearing something marine blue (I still didn’t know what at that moment) and I cannot be considered a traitor by anyone because both groups wear marine blue.

I was given the school field t-shirt today. My mentor teacher gave me it as a gift (he paid for it) and I am really thankful for that gesture. I don’t know if there is a competition for student teachers, I hope not, but I will be there for cheering my group of third graders. I will be with the fourth graders tomorrow in the afternoon, but I will write about that in one of the next posts.

Due the power outage, I needed to take the bus until Bayamon because the urban train didn’t work. I took three very crowed buses to arrive there. Once in Bayamon, the bus left me in a small mall where things are very cheap. I managed to get a pair of tennis, earrings, a headband, a bracelet, a feather boa and some hula necklaces for my third graders (one per student), all in marine blue. I also found some giant bubbles to have fun. Here is the picture of everything I got today for under 40 dollars:

FieldDayAttire.jpg

Tomorrow will be an exciting day! Let’s keep growing!

The Voice

Today my students had a test. I talked with them during their snack break and they have studied the review and seemed prepared. They only asked me if the test had many “different adjectives” (they mean irregular comparative and superlative adjectives). I told them that each multiple selection had only one irregular adjective each. You can see the test here: Test 1.

At the time of the test, my mentor teacher helped me with learning how to give all the test’s instructions with clarity. All students were able to finish the test during class time. The first finished the test in about half the class time and the last student finished three minutes before the bell rang.

Today I also attended a meeting for planning English Week. We planned different activities: a picture bee, a verb bee, a debate… My third graders are going to have a poetry contest. I proposed for them a poem that is relatively short and that has a great message: The Voice, by Shel Silverstein. If you haven’t heard that poem before, here it is:

There is a voice inside of you
that whispers all day long,
‘I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.’
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
or wise man can decide
what’s right for you – just listen to
the voice that speaks inside.

I like this poem a lot because it talks about something we all must learn sooner or later, to listen our own consciences, and because it inspires a richer, deeper and more human learning environment. It can help my students to become better human beings, as I became a better person today by teaching them about resilience with a test!

Let’s keep growing!

Small Growth Victories

On Friday I did not have time for writing a post, so I will write for both days today.

On Friday I had a seminar about inclusive technology. It was given by a blind professor. He taught us technological skills and technological notions for exceptional students. He also thought us to define what is a blind person in a different way.  He told us that when he asks his students what is a blind student, most of them answer: “someone who can’t see, can’t read…” He showed us that we need to overcome the “can’t” view: we need to see what the student CAN do. Always. So, a blind student is a person who learns through audition and tact. We need to have the highest expectatives possible for our exceptional students. We learn about many really cool apps and hardware for exceptional students: Prizmo Go, Office Lens, Seeing AI, Dot Watch, Sunu band, braile screens, OrCam, Argus II…

After that seminar I had my first job interview as an ESL teacher. It was for a district in New Jersey. I did it just for the experience: I am not prepared yet to move to United States, I want to study a master first. I felt comfortable talking in English with the interviewer, it was a great first experience.

After the job interview I walked to the UPR Elementary School. I prepared the lesson plan for today’s class. You can see the lesson plan here: Comparative And Superlative Adjectives Review Plan . I also prepared a Power Point presentation to give my class. You can see that Power Point presentation here: Test Review.

Today I began my day preparing tomorrow’s test. My mentor teacher already corrected it and photocopied it, so it is ready for tomorrow’s class. He was kind enough to also photocopy for the students the Test Review Power Point presentation.

I discussed the Test Review like a competition. The students loved it so much that some of them did not want to leave the classroom. I let them know the bonus for tomorrow’s test: they need to write the word “resilience” correctly in the test. They had a hard time reminding how to write that word. I discussed that before the last weekend.

Last week I had problems with one student who forgot her eyeglasses many days, so she couldn’t participate properly in class (I needed to read for her). Today she brought her eyeglasses and participated by her own in the class. I was so happy for her! Another student had problems last week with waiting for his turn, but today he was able to wait for his turn many times. Those are the small growth victories that inspire me to keep teaching and learning how to help students to grow.

Let’s keep growing!

Walking Like He Walked

This is a teaching integractive blog. On Sundays, I usually write an essay about elements that influence my teaching or that are related with my teaching. What I am going to write about today has influenced me deeply both as person and as teacher: my faith. I usually do not talk about my faith in my classroom, but today I am going to talk about a faith experience that has helped me to model the kind of person and teacher I want to be.

Today I am going to write about how I overcame a deep faith crisis that leaded me to become a better person and a better teacher.

Several years ago, around 2008, I had a deep and strong faith crisis. I asked myself if I could be creative and catholic at the same time, if I could be who I am (I am naturally intellectual and creative) and catholic at the same time. This crisis was caused by my belonging to a catholic institution, still quite unknown in Puerto Rico, called “Opus Dei”. This institution teaches through intern institutional formation that if you leave them you lose your vocation and probably even your eternal salvation, among other very questionable teachings.

Through this crisis I discovered my true vocation, my human and ecclesial vocation, my vocation to grow by living charity and to irradiate God’s Love by forming Him in my whole personal formation. I deepened my human and ecclesial vocation through three ways:

-Though Arts: I painted a Jesus Charity. The picture of that painting is this one:

Jesus Charity.jpg

I developed an iconography for all the forms included in the painting. I also wrote a love story that described my process of conversion after leaving Opus Dei: Fiat Amor. I affirmed my ecclesial vocation as a vocation to form an image of God’s Love in whole personal formation through living charity. My vocation stopped being an “institutional vocation” (belonging to Opus Dei) to be transformed in a personal vocation, humanly and ecclesially. I discovered my vocation as fruit of God’s grace, not as fruit of institutional proselytism (like in Opus Dei). I discovered my creative talent as an instrument the Church, instead of being something that hindered some institutional customs.

-Through Sciences (Humanities, Education, Social Sciences, Philosophy): I created integraction, a model of human and ecclesial personal formation. Formation stopped being institutional (aspiring to be Opus Dei) to become in personal formation, humanly and ecclesially. I discovered personal formation as charism, instead of some kind of institutional “mold”. I discovered intellectual talent as instrument to affirm my whole personal formation according to God’s Love, not according to the customs of an institution.

-Through Religion (Catholic theology): I created a theology of light, a theology that deals with the whole personal formation according to God’s Light, a theology that proposes the personal formation as the fullest radiation of God’s Love. I discovered theology as contemplative knowledge of God’s Love, not as memorization of information only, as I knew it in Opus Dei. I discovered the personal formation as talent to serve humanity, not as instrument to serve an specific institution only.

My healing and my restoration after my belonging and leaving Opus Dei has taken long years, more than the time I belonged the institution. In part it had to do with the fact that before I met Opus Dei I was a person of faith with common elements with the institution. For example, prior entering Opus Dei I had a clear lay vocation and thought that studying philosophy and theology was part of my God’s call. That is to say, in my vocation there were elements common to Opus Dei prior belonging to them, without the institution being the one to propose it, hence I really thought that my vocation to Opus Dei was real.

Once restored, my human and ecclesial vocation was transformed, after a time of living it as an “alliance of charity”, into a “consecration to charity”: a consecration to learn how to live charity with the greatest possible correspondence to God in all circumstances; a consecration to learn how to walk like Jesus walked, to think like He thought, to act like He acted, to grow as He grew, to radiate like He radiated, to love like He Loved… to live like He lives. The consecration to charity is a service to people and to the Church. It is difficult to describe the immense joy that comes from the simple fact of being able to live and form myself based on living charity, something so deeply ecclesial and Christian, after surviving an experience like having belonged to Opus Dei, something that requires following so many institutional customs that are quite questionable from the charity perspective. That consecration to charity made and continues to make a big difference in me.

What kind of differences has the alliance of charity and the consecration to charity made in my personal formation? I will sketch some of them.

In negative:

Stop forming myself as I am not: after the alliance of charity and the consecration to charity any attempt to control conscience via spiritual direction is impossible. I am no longer formed to be an institution: I am formed to be a Christian person, to radiate the image of Jesus Charity through my personal formation because I have been created to radiate that Love, that is how I am.

Stop forming myself because “I must be in a certain way“: after the alliance of charity and consecration to charity, I began to form myself to relate personally to God, not because I must be in a certain institutional way, or not because I must be a canonized saint… The first thing is to relate to God, and everything else will come in addition to that.

Stop forming myself to obey only: after the alliance of charity and consecration to charity, I did not form myself to fulfill a plan of life that seemed more like a marketing plan, or to fulfill the expectations of an institution. Now I am formed to grow in communion, to fulfill a project of communion, humanly and ecclesially.

Stop forming myself to please a director: now I am not formed to please others, but to live charity towards God, towards my neighbor and towards myself. Now spiritual direction is part of living charity towards God, not merely following instructions and institutional customs.

In positive:

Personal formation centered on personal growth, on imitating Jesus, on communion and on living charity: after the alliance of charity and consecration to charity, I am responsible for my growth, because growth no longer depends exclusively on obeying to an institution. After the consecration to charity, I discern my project of evangelization with creative freedom, imitating Jesus, growing in communion and learning to live charity. I choose the meaning of the forms of my personal and ecclesial formation.

Acceptance of personal formation as a unit of processes: personal formation in Opus Dei is confused with institutional training that consists of memorization of information and following some customs and institutional instructions. A great change after the alliance of charity and the consecration to charity has been to accept personal formation as a unit of processes in constant progress. There is no longer the anxiety of having to adapt my whole personal formation to the foundationality of an institution. Now the personal formation is fluid and changing. Today I do not have to be the same as yesterday (I no longer have to adjust to being just Opus Dei in the same way day by day, as the directors say). The ways of living the obligations that the consecration to charity entails change day by day according to personal discernment, I do not live the charity of it in exactly the same way every day, although the commitment of consecration to charity remains the same. The consecration to charity is a flowing commitment, like the grace that flows.

Acceptance of personal formation as a complex process: now that personal formation does not equals institutional formation, after the alliance of charity and the consecration to charity, forming myself does not consist of something as “squared” as obeying the director and following a plan (I continue living piety norms, but with freedom to be who I am. For example: if I cannot do a piety norm, I substitute it with a work of charity, and if doing a work of charity prevents making a piety norm, I do the work of charity first). Now personal formation is something complex in which elements such as natural law and experience are taken into account, and in which there can be various ways of following the will of God as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Openness to experience: when I was part of Opus Dei I was told many times that I had the chronic defect of being “pride” for taking into account my experience as one of the criteria of my formation. In Opus Dei the only acceptable criterion of institutional formation is the will of the director. After the alliance of charity and the consecration to charity I can freely accept my experience as part of the configuration of the criteria of my personal formation, without being treated like an “unfaithful”. Now I can open myself to experience, my own and from others, without it meaning something like wanting to oppose some institutional view.

Acceptance of others without pretending to change them: in Opus Dei there is a huge preassure to make as many as possible part of the institution, making contact lists and determining institutional goals if necessary. This is institutional proselytism. After the alliance to charity and the consecration to charity there is no longer a desire to change others, but to help them to be, to do, to grow and to radiate. Now there is eagerness to learn to help others grow, accepting the person unconditionally.

Acceptance of myself: Opus Dei instills mistrust in oneself, since the criterion of personal formation must always be the director. After the alliance of charity and the consecration to charity I recovered a healthy confidence in myself, with the help of God’s grace.

Acceptance of all personal formation as it is, not according to the institution says it is: after the alliance of charity and consecration to charity I pay more attention to what is as it is. That sounds like tongue twisters, but it is not the same to pay attention to what is supposed to be according to the institutional, or to be less than what one is, to simply pay attention to what it is. For example: I now accept the personal formation of others as it is, not because of institutional proselytism.

Although I stayed studying in an Opus Dei’s University after leaving the institution, eventually I also needed to leave the University in order to be able to begin Jesus Charity as creative project and to reform my spiritual life after leaving the institution. It was impossible for me beginning Jesus Charity in their University: I did not have all the necessary intellectual resources (I lacked social sciences intellectual resources) and the necessary creative-spiritual space to begin a project like Jesus Charity there. So, I asked myself then, in what I would work after leaving my PhD in philosophy (that meant that I would not be able to become a college professor, as I planned)? I chose to become a teacher, first a religion teacher and later an ESL teacher. I chose to learn how to help people be, do, grow and radiate through school education.

How to share all my human and ecclesial growth after the alliance of charity and the consecration of charity? First, through my personal formation, through living charity and keep growing until becoming who I am and who I am meant to be according to God’s Love. However, in order to being able to do that I discerned that I needed to create an intellectual structure for reforming everything that needed to be corrected in me after leaving Opus Dei, so I began to write Walking Like He Walked, a draft in which I describe integraction, the iconography of Jesus Charity, the theology of light and the consecration to charity. I first wrote Walking Like He Walked to be shared anonymously in a web page managed by an ex Opus Dei member where ex-members of Opus Dei are usually understood (it is very hard to find spaces, specially in the Church, where people can understand the experience of surviving Opus Dei), but the administrator of that web page kindly rejected to publish my text because the web page did not want to promote any doctrine or “way” to Opus Dei ex members, and they considered my text to be a “way”. The intention was sharing this text as an anonymous “fraternal correction” to Opus Dei. What do I mean with this? Anyone who belonged to Opus Dei knows what they understand as “fraternal correction”: an accusation to which a “thank you” had to be answered always, even if it was unfair. During the final stages of my psico-spiritual recovery I discerned that I should make a fraternal correction to Opus Dei for every institutional mistake I witnessed, but the fraternal correction that I prayed was not like theirs: mine was like “helping to grow”, not like an accusation. So, according to my prayer, my fraternal correction should consist in sharing with them how much I grew while being informed, conformed, transformed and reformed by God’s Love after leaving Opus Dei, not in sharing a list of all the mistakes that I witnessed while I was linked to Opus Dei.

Anyone could ask me: how do I live charity towards Opus Dei without telling the mistakes I witnessed? Simply: avoiding condemning anyone, including them. In this case, living charity is allowing everyone to grow, including them. That way, all the mistakes I witnessed would be part of Opus Dei’s growing process. There is no need of accusation if a mistake is a necessary part of growing, the only need is helping to grow. I have a basic life principle that can be applied to circumstances like this one: never attribute to malice what is simply a consequence of lack of growth. People like me had been injured by some of Opus Dei’s mistakes, necessary for their growth, but I don’t think their primary intention had never been hurting anyone, although definitely some of those mistakes have hurt many souls.

There is another aspect of living charity involved here: living charity not only towards Opus Dei but towards ex members of Opus Dei also, many who believe that they will lose their vocation and salvation due leaving the institution, among others acharities (acharity is lack of charity) that had been seen like normalcy through Opus Dei’s internal institutional formation. They must also know that they are loved and embraced by God in their new way, that leaving Opus Dei is not the end of their vocation but a transformation and a reformation, one of many that we all have in life as we keep growing. Transformation is a natural part of the process of realization and reformation is a natural part of projection. Only God’s mercy can decide who is saved. We all keep growing, we all commit mistakes, and we all need God’s mercy.

Because I am not able to share Walked by He Walked anonymously, as I planned, I chose to share it here with my first name and my last names. The deepest meaning of sharing this is no longer sharing a fraternal correction, now that is accidental and worthless because Opus Dei won’t know I am writing this (I have no contact with current Opus Dei members), the only way they would have known would had been through the ex-member web page were I planned to share this anonimously, that is seen by hundreds of members too. Now the deepest meaning of sharing Walking Like He Walked is simply sharing what God has given me to serve better as human being, as Christian and, of course, as teacher. This is my way of sharing the gifts I have received and my intellectual-creative talent.

What is exactly Walked Like He Walked? Right now is a draft written in English of the text I plan to share in Spanish in February 14, 2019: that is the day of my consecration to charity due being Saint Valentine’s Day, a day of love. This draft has seven parts:

-The first two parts are explorations of the concept “light”. I won’t include these parts in the Spanish text, I don’t consider it necessary.

-Parts III and IV explain integraction as human and ecclesial personal formation model.

-Part V explains the process of forming God’s Love in the personal formation, illustrating it through the painting of Jesus Charity.

-Part VI explains the conversion of life in a story of Love.

-Part VII explains the conversion of the personal formation in a work of Love: the new humanization, the new ecclesialization, the new evangelization, the consecration to charity and the Family Evangelization Project (helping to be, helping to do, helping to grow, helping to radiate).

I am aware that the English draft is full of grammatical errors. I beg you to focus on the ideas, at least for now. I will take care of grammar issues with more care in the Spanish version. Walking Like He Walked is a long text, but reading the introduction is enough to have an idea of what each part contents and to choose what to read and what not to read. I need to make two warnings. The first one: I studies in two theological faculties and I couldn’t finish the degree in any one. I failed many classes, specially philosophical and latin. What I mean is that I am not an academic philosopher or an academic theologian. I may be a philosopher or a theologian, but in the creative-intellectual sense. I think that this is evident through the text: my method was not academic nor it was meant to be so. Whoever expects reading academic theology or academic philosophy in this text will be disappointed. The second warning: integraction is not meant to be a model or theory of human development, but to explain how we are who we are and how we become who we are meant to be. Whoever expects to find in integraction a human development model or theory will be disappointed too. I think there are many good models and theories to explain human development. This is not one of them, although I have studied some of them and taken them into consideration while writing this text.

Of all the ideas I present in this draft, I think that the most important one is the consecration of Charity. This consecration realizes God’s dreams and convert us in a work of Love, in a living sign of God’s Love, in a sacrament of God’s Love, in “Eucharist” for the brothers and sisters. In Opus Dei there is something known as the apostolate of “not giving”. I discovered the apostolate of the “yes giving”: saying yes to God to give His Love and saying yes to give ourselves. Sharing all these ideas is for me part of the apostolate of “yes giving”: I am giving the fruit of my prayer, of the contemplated ideas, of the witness of learning to know God’s Love. This consecration to charity is not a religious consecration, I am lay, but I think it is possible to serve the Church and to be a lay consecrated to charity, it is a matter of being creative. As a matter of fact, every Cristian should live a consecrated life, being consecrated can’t be for religious only.

Without any doubt, what saved my faith after the deep crisis caused by Opus Dei was my personal encounter with God’s Love and to reform my ecclesial vocation as I learned to form that Love in my personal formation and in the canvas, as a work of art and as a work of Love, always with more fidelity. I am still learning to do that, that learning will continue through my whole lifetime. Learning to live charity is learning to correspond God’s Love and to radiate it to everyone through the personal formation.

I wanted, on purpose, to wait until the Triduum and until Easter to write these lines during the Divine Mercy novena and share this on the Divine Mercy Sunday. I trust all my mistakes while I was linked to Opus Dei to God’s Mercy, and I also trust to Him all the institutional mistakes I witnessed, trusting that that Mercy is capable of transforming any situation, no matter how dark it may be, in a radiation of God’s Love. I do not regret of spending time of my life as member of Opus Dei, nor of studying in their University, because if I wouldn’t lived what I lived and suffered what I suffered I wouldn’t discovered my ecclesial vocation as a vocation to form God’s Love in the personal formation, nor I would have discovered integraction, the theology of light or Jesus Charity. I am thankful to Opus Dei for getting me closer to God’s Love, even if it was through provoking a crisis and through provoking pain. It helped me to think that the institutional mistakes I witnessed were part of their growth. The bigger the error, the greater the possibility of growth.

To whoever may be injured by Opus Dei practices, I present you the painting of Jesus Charity: a Jesus painted to radiate God’s Love in the darkest circumstances of humanity, among abuses, especially if committed in the name of God, among injustices, among broken personal formations, among injured human dignity, among acharities. This is the Jesus capable of informing, conforming, transforming and reforming the whole person and every person, no matter how sinner he or she could be, if the person allows God to love him or her. As a curious fact, there was a moment I thought I could give the painting as gift to the Legionaries of Christ, so they may use it as a founder’s photo, instead of the photo of the Marcial Maciel. It was not possible for me doing that.

I have entrusted Opus Dei to Jesus Charity, with the hope that some day there will be institutional changes for avoiding any spiritual injury due following institutional customs that provoke spiritual harm. I have also entrusted to Jesus Charity any abuse victim, especially those who had been abused in the name of God, so they may know the Love capable of healing any kind of wound. Another curious fact about the painting: at the beginning, its name was “Jesus Love” (“Jesús Amor”) because in Puerto Rico it is very common for people calling each other “amor” (“love”), so I dared to call Jesus “Love” too, but with capital letter. May we all dare to see Jesus as our Love, to getting closer to Him and to trust Him, contemplating Him as the Incarnated Love of God. For this, it helps me to repeat the jaculatory prayer: “Jesus Charity, we grow in You!” It is said in plural because it is a prayer said as living Church.

Considering the context of Walking Like He Walked, I consider important to make two clarifications. The first one: when I titled Walking Like He Walked I did not had present at all in my thought the sense of the word “walking the way” used in Opus Dei, not even as a critic. In the moment of choosing that title I was thinking in a biblical quote, 1 Jn 2:6: “whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk like he walked.” This can be translated in several forms: “lived as he lived”, “act like he acted…” The translation of the exegesis I used when I began to contemplate the theology of light from the First Epistle of John said “walk like he walked”, that’s why I chose those words. My emphasis in the use of the verb “walking” and Opus Dei’s emphasis in the use of the word “way”, two extremely very similar concepts, is strictly coincidence. They are not meant to be related or connected.

The second clarification: the expression “work of Love” is a very important concept of Walking Like He Walked. It could be seen as an implicit allusion or critic to Opus Dei name’s meaning, “work of God”. It has never meant to be so. The expression “work of Love” originated from the process of forming Jesus Charity as an artistic work: the artistic work of the hands is converted in a “work of Love” as the whole personal formation is converted in a living sign of God’s Love; as the whole personal formation is converted in “living sacrament” of God’s Love. Any coincidence in emphasis in the use of the word “work” in Walking Like He Walked and in Opus Dei institutional formation is also strictly coincidence. Literally I never heard anyone or read anything in the institution that applied the name “work of God” as “work of Love.” I read and studied (literally studied: I photocopied internal documents in secret so I could highlight them and study them) many internal documents, and I never knew or contemplated the idea “work of Love” while I was member of the institution. I contemplated that idea, as I just said, while applying the process of painting Jesus Charity, the process of creating an artistic work, to the processes of personal formation, the process of creating a “work of Love.” So, when I talk about “converting us in a work of Love”, that could also be understood ad “converting us in a work of God” if you define God as Love, I do not mean to convert us in “Opus Dei”, the institution. I do not mean the opposite neither. The ideas are simply not meant to be connected. Whoever has evidence of any Opus Dei’s institutional formation document (internal document) that has the concept “work of God” applied as “work of Love”, please share the evidence. I do not have a good memory, but the idea of becoming a “work of Love” is so important to me that if I would have heard or read it before painting Jesus Charity, inside or outside Opus Dei, I would have remembered it.

You can find the PDF of Walking Like He Walked here: Walking Like He Walked.

Any critic or comment to the painting of Jesus Charity, to integraction, to the theology of light, to Walking Like He Walked or to any of the ideas I have presented are completely welcome. There is always opportunity to helping to be, helping to do, helping to grow and helping to radiate God’s Love with more clarity and transparency.

What all this have in relation with my teaching? I will give ten lessons about how what I learned through this crisis makes me a better teacher. I won’t explain the concrete circumstances that leaded me to learn that lesson, I will share just the lessons.

First, I discovered my teaching vocation through this crisis, as I explained before.

Second, I have learned by experience that people are more important than institutions or customs, methods or curriculums. Teaching is not a matter of keeping an intellectual credibility: it is a matter of helping to grow people.

Third, although I usually don’t talk about religion to my students, my faith in God’s Love discovered through the consecration to charity is clearly the greatest influence of my motivation to teach and helping my students to grow. I teach them because I want to learn how to love them as God loves them and I want them to be the best person they can be because that is what God would want for them. As a teacher I learn to live charity through my lesson plans and through my pedagogy. Jesus’ commandment of Love informs, conforms, transforms and reforms what I do as person and of course as teacher also.

Fourth, integraction has given me a wider view of the personal formation processes. By example: I am aware that I am a role model for my students (in integraction, this is explained as the influence of action). God has given me the ability to make choices about my words and my actions. Those choices are also part of the lesson plan as integractive context. I as teacher aim to teach and model not only my subject but also sanctity: ways of living that help us to be, to do, to grow and to radiate in fraternity and communion of the saints. I am not called to be perfect and without sin, but for my students I can be a role model of how to embody Christ in our personal formation if they chose to see it that way.

Fifth, I have learned to define my teaching authority according to the authority of Jesus. I use my authority appropriately when I am able to create a learning environment that is intellectually, spiritually, psychologically and physically safe for every student. My authority as teacher does not aims to be an authority of obedience and following instructions, it aims to be an authority of Love. I must be prepared to follow through with the appropriate rules, but not for the sake of the rule but for the sake of the person. The abuse of authority can cause great harm, so I should think carefully about how I use the authority that has been entrusted to me.

Sixth, I have learned to care for the whole person. When I care for the whole person it is shown in a consistent attitude that continually reminds the people in my class that they are not alone, that we are learning and growing together. Sometimes what seems like an insignificant thing provides the bit of grace that enables a student to envision a hopeful future. True caring never tries to force or control another. How to show my students that I care? Listening attentively to them is one of the most simple and respectful things I can do to showing them how much I care. As I listen to them, I am not just listening for information. I am listening for their whole personal formation: their bodies, their minds, their relations, their thoughts, their abilities, their feelings, their hopes, their dreams… the personal formation that they are revealing. I become a safe companion as my students can explore new ideas or to reevaluate beliefs without fears of not being accepted because I give them the gift of a nonjudgmental presence. Personal listening time is as holy as my prayer time.

Seventh, I have learned that curriculum is integractive. For me, curriculum is not only the content I am expected to teach, as it is usually understood. For me, curriculum is the integration, action realization and projection of class members with the content, materials, resources, and learning community. For example: the culture of the classroom is part of the curriculum. Creating a rich, welcoming and creative learning space, where all students are valued and accepted as human beings, is part of the curriculum. When spirituality is used to judge people, when words and actions tear down people, then spiritual abuse is occurring. The same applies to curriculum: when intellectuality is used to judge students, when words and actions tear down students, then intellectual abuse is occurring. Allowing an atmosphere in which such circumstances are ordinary part of the classroom’s culture is a misuse of curriculum. Integractive curriculum applies the content of each lesson to the personal formation of the students without allowing judgements and enriching it with meaning. Finding meaning in life empowers students to share themselves with others and to enhance their learning.

Eighth, I have learned the importance of learning humanly: the importance of touching, greeting and looking to the eyes when teaching. Human touch, greeting and eye contact is important throughout life and for learning. People need to be touched, greeted, hugged and looked in appropriate ways to receive the nurture that allows them to learn, trust and relate with others. Touching, greeting and looking other people in appropriate ways contributes to their well-being and enhances all the personal formation’s processes. For example: I as teacher need to think about the way I welcome, interact with, and say good-bye to my students. A hug may be an appropriate greeting for elementary children, but a pat on the head, for example, can be either welcoming or demeaning for them, depending on the circumstances. The recipient of the touch determines whether the touch is appropriate or inappropriate, no matter what were the intentions. It is wise to ask to a student, no matter how young he or she is, if a touch is ok if he or she did not initiate it. For example: I could ask an elementary student that behave exceptionally well in a class if I may give him or her a hug to congratulate him or her. I would not recommend that kind of touch with upper elementary grade levels, in that case the touch would be a hand in the shoulder. It may seem a complication to ask these kind of things, it may seem to be simpler to avoid touching, but it would also dehumanize learning.

Ninth, I have learned to use words to affirm the person unconditionally. Words can build up people or they can demean them. I as teacher need to be aware of the power of my words, both the words I speak and the words students say in my class. Affirming words influence personal formation and learning for good. Judgements destroy self-esteem. If we only criticize a student, that person will begin to believe, sooner or later, that he or she is not a capable human being and will have difficulties developing healthy self-esteem. Corrective words are necessary, but also praise words.

Tenth, I have learned to integrate diversity. This does not only mean to accept and nurture my student’s diverse abilities (what they can do), instead of only focusing in what they cannot do. This also means to accept and integrate my student’s diverse learning styles. My students do not learn the same way, so I can’t teach always the same way. I need to help them thrive by adapting my teaching methods to their learning styles, creating a culture were personal differences are part of the journey, not an exception.

I proposed to share this post on the Divine Mercy Sunday, and as I write these words the clock says  “12:00 a.m.” of Divine Mercy Sunday. I won’t go to Church early tomorrow because I will go to the mass at 3:00 p.m. instead of the 9:00 am, so today I chose to write until late. It is time to finish my post, and today I will finish it with a phrase that helps me to keep growing:

Jesus Charity, we grow in You!