An Integractive Vision

Today I will write about a personal choice that influences my teaching style: the choice of contemplating reality through an integractive vision.

We all see and build reality through a concrete vision. No one can avoid that. It is very important to be conscious of how we see and construct reality, especially if you are a teacher, because teachers help their students to realize their own vision. What are my principles for building my vision of reality? How accurate is my reality perception? How integractively coherent is my reality? What is the point of view of my reality? These are all very important questions that usually are not assumed consciously. Let’s answer each one of those questions.

What are my principles for building my vision of reality? I have a very concrete foundation for building my vision of reality: integraction, or personal formation’s growth. That’s why I call my vision an “integractive vision”: the foundation of my vision of reality are the human growth processes, or how the person grows, humanely and ecclesially, until becoming who is meant to be. In everything I see I ask myself how this or that helps people’s personal growth, how it informs, conform, transform and reform the whole personal formation, how it helps the person to be the best person he or she can be. With “integraction” I do not mean my own personal formation’s growth, but personal formation’s growth according to truth.

How accurate is my reality perception? With “accurate” I mean “non-ideological”. I will explain what I mean with “non-ideological”.

Usually our reality’s vision is perceived as “liberal” (left direction) or “conservative” (right direction).  In integraction, the left and right directions (emanations) of the integractor are interpreted in a very different way: one direction is meant to be actuality and the other direction is meant to be potentiality. This is a very different notion of “right” and “left”: it is not an “ideological perception” but an “integractive perception.” The direction of the integractive perception depends on the actuality and potentiality of personal formation’s growth, not upon “conservative directions” or “liberal directions. This can be very hard to understand to people that are used to perceive everything as “conservative” or “liberal.” Having an integractive perception of reality means that it is perfectly possible to affirm both “conservative directions” and “liberal directions”, because it all depends on what helps the whole person to be, to do, to grow and to radiate until becoming the best person he or she could be. There are some “liberal directions” that inform, can conform, transform and reform all the personal formation’s growth, like defending the poor and standing for immigrants and refugees. At the same time, there are some “conservative directions” that also can inform, conform, transform and reform all the personal formation’s growth, like defending the life of the unborn, defending religious freedom and defending a strong economy. There are “liberal directions” that are against the integraction, actual or potential, of the whole personal formation of everyone, like promotion abortion, and there are “conservative directions” that also are against the integraction, actual or potential, of the whole personal formation of everyone, like promoting the use of guns. The integractive perception relies on whatever helps the person, potentially or actually, to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best person he or she can become, no matter if it may come from the “conservative direction” or from the “liberal direction”. From the integractive perspective, the conservative and liberal issue really doesn’t matter at all: both can be right sometimes, and both can be wrong sometimes. What’s right is right no matter which ideology proposes it; what’s wrong is wrong no matter which ideology proposes it. What matters in the integractive perception is the actuality and the potentiality of integraction, of the personal formation’s growth processes. Whatever breaks or hurts any of those processes is wrong, not matter if it comes from the conservative side or from the liberal side.

One particular detail on this conservative and liberal issue: it is usually understood that the “creative” side are liberals and the “traditional” side are conservatives. I am both highly creative and highly traditional (yes, you can be both at the same time), but I do not define myself as liberal or conservative, but as integractive. It always surprises me when people can’t conceive another perception beyond “liberal” and “conservative”. I really don’t understand why being creative and being traditional should be perceived as opposed to each other, as some insist to promote. Let me be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong in being conservative or being liberal, I am no one to judge anyone. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong in not perceiving reality with a “liberal direction” or a “conservative direction” neither. The constant war between conservatives and liberals, even inside the Church, is a waste of time and cognitive energy for me. I pass of having an oppositional perception, I choose to have an affirmative perception. I prefer to invest my cognitive energies and my time in affirming the best personal formation’s growth possible, potential an actual, for everyone. As you may guess, due this I have been seen as an “opposition” by both conservatives and liberals. My intention is not opposing anyone, I really don’t need to oppose anyone. I only need to oppose to whatever hurts or breaks personal formation’s growth processes, whatever hurt or breaks human dignity. I merge “pro-choice” and “pro-life” in a single expression: “pro-growth.” I am “pro-choice” in the sense that I affirm that everyone is entitled, just for being human being, to the choice of grow, including the unborn. I am “pro-life” in the sense that I affirm that everyone is entitled to a life of growth. For me, both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” can mean “pro-growth.”

What is the difference between an ideology and an integraction? Ideology is based in a system of personal values. Integraction is based in a system of personal formation. The personal formation includes values, but it doesn’t force a certain set of values, as ideologies does. An ideological perception models the personal formation processes according to values. An integractive perception models the values according to the personal formation processes. This is what I mean with “integractive perception”, in its both directions, actuality and potentiality. For concluding this I am departing from both ecclesial and human integration: spiritual/organic-intellectual-social discernment (contemplation/observation-ponderation-interaction). Answering how “accurate” the reality perception requires to integrate all of those kinds of discernment. How integractively coherent is my reality? This refers to how integration, action, realization and projection are in harmony between them, forming a whole unity, and also refers to the universality of the growth’s affirmation. For example: if I affirm the best growth possible for everyone, the same applies to the unborn and to those who identify themselves as LGBT, and the same applies in my action, in my realization in my projection, it is not only an “intellectual idea”, a “social construct” or an “organic image”. If you are integractively coherent, the affirmation of the best personal formation possible for everyone must be equally consistent in all the personal formation growth processes: in the integration, in the action, in the realization and in the projection. If you are integractively coherent, you can’t act affirming the best personal formation of everyone but not project yourself affirming the same. For example: you can’t act promoting the best growth possible for everyone and project yourself with an abortion or not respecting those who identify themselves a LGBT people. Something is wrong in the integractive coherence if that happens.

What is the point of view of my reality? The best growth possible of everyone, not only mine. Is not merely and “I” point of view: it is the point of view of the “I” and the “we” in communion. No matter how “alone” someone could think he or she is, I write “alone” that way because I believe that if we grow we are necessarily growing in communion, with God and with the other, as brothers and sisters of the same human family. Human being is that way, only grows in communion. That’s the point of view: communion, “personal giftedness” (the self-giving to others as a gift), both humanely (human fraternity, helping to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best person we can be, becoming living signs of humanity) and ecclesially (sacramental fraternity, helping to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as incarnated sacraments, becoming living signs of God’s Love).

There is a very important issue about reality that must be considered consciously too: no human being can control reality, only God can. No matter how much information about a person’s life we may have, even if we manage to access very sensible information about his or her most intimate spiritual conscience, only God can control his or her reality. Many ideological influences may seem to try to control reality through several methods (for example: through control of conscience, or through control of information), but at the very end, only God can control it, and He always amazes everyone with His Love’s surprises. God’s Love, being loved by God, is human being’s most evident reality: everything else is radiated from that Love. There is no brighter clarity in reality than contemplating how we are loved by God and there is no deeper mystery in reality than confessing that God is Love, so our humanity is created by Love, for Love and with Love.

All this means that progress, for me, is not an ideological progress, the progress of propagation of some values. Progress is the unconditional promotion of the best personal growth possible for everyone, no matter in which developmental stage the person is and no matter the sexual diversity, the political diversity, the functional diversity, the gender diversity… Progress is learning to recognize ourselves as growing persons with equal dignity, with all the consequences that this implies. We are very far away of accomplishing the best growth possible for everyone. We are very far away of achieving a better understanding, recognition and promotion of all the personal formation’s processes in every person. We still rely the worth of the person in ideological values, instead of valuing ideologues according to the worth of the person. Humanity needs true progress and true tradition: humanity need the best personal growth possible for everyone, not only to those who seem convenient according to a certain ideology. We need to learn how to embrace our whole personal formation and help each other to become the best person we can become just because we recognize each other as human family, not because someone stands my own ideological values, so it is convenient to me to helping him or her to grow. Not recognizing every human being as a person unconditionally worthy of growth, denying the personal formation’s growth of some human beings, is the biggest injustice of our times.

How all these details about my integractive vision influence my teaching style? Well, first of all, for me teaching is a radiation of Love. Actually, the whole personal formation’s growth is a radiation of Love that creates communion, family and community. No matter what, the student must know that he or she is unconditionally loved in every growth stage, including when he or she commits a mistake. Although I never had the need to talk about God’s Love in any of my English classes (no religious theme has been discussed in any of my English classes), I try and pray for the grace of letting each student know through my English lessons how unconditionally loved he or she is, in the same way God let me know how unconditionally loved I am and I will always be, no matter how dire or hurtful the circumstances could be. That is my way of “evangelizing”: radiating God’s Love through my being, my action, my realization and my projection, even if I do not expressly pronounce the word “God” with phonemes.

A second influence of my integractive vision is I never try to control my student’s reality, and this means a lot of things. I let them be and let them grow respecting their dignity, their integrity, their whole personal formation’s processes. What I do try to keep in control and try to help my students to learn how to keep in control is behavior, what is very different than try to control someone’s reality through an ideological vision. For example: it is not the same trying to impose a specific value through using books that only propose a convenient value (that’s ideological) than trying to help the student to acquire a new habit that allows his or her whole personal formation to grow more coherently (that’s integractive).

Another way my integractive vision influences my teaching style is that I have learned to respect my student’s own vision and helping them to realize how to be more coherent with the vision they choose to build, whatever it is. This is more applicable to middle school students than to elementary school students, because elementary school students are usually still “learning to see”, so you need to present them all the views possible in order to make them are able to understand different point of view and create their own visions. That can be done in many ways during the class, especially through modeling examples that are pertinent to each student’s personal formation. How do I know that the examples I model are pertinent to the students’ personal formation? At the beginning of our first class together I gave them a homework: an interest inventory in which I asked many questions about them. I gave it as a homework so they can take as much time as they need to think the answers and write them according to the information they choose to share with me. For example: there are students that have medical conditions that they choose to not share with me, although I have known them from other legitimate sources. Whatever information that they choose not to share with me, I don’t take it count or assume as known in our conversations and classwork. This interest inventory is key to me to know what examples are more pertinent to each students’ personal formation, although talking with them and playing with them also works to know it too. I have them in a binder with sheet protectors and consult it as many times as I need, because I don’t have the memory to memorize all their answers, but I need to keep them present constantly.

Other way my integractive vision influences my teaching style is through trying to create communion (unconditional personal giftedness), to create family (unconditional personal acceptance) and to create community (unconditional personal empathy) in the classroom, so there is the “creative growing space” needed to learn how to become the best person they can be while learning English as second language. I do not explain them explicitly this (I do not want them to learn that they must do things the same way I do them, I usually seek the way to let them choose how to do things, although the instructions do state clearly what they should do), I simply do whatever is necessary to achieve the needed “creative personal growth” environmental conditions. I consider that the learning environment is part of the curriculum, so creating a space where learning and personal growth is possible as its best is something that I really try to care. For me it’s a proven fact that students learn more and better when they see that the teacher care their personal growth and respect them as persons in the first place. The school culture has a lot to do about this too. This is not something that a teacher can do by her own initiative alone, the school learning principles (I prefer to consider them “growing principles”) must allow this too. This has been the case in the Elementary School where I had been doing my teaching practicum.

I took me a long time and some life experience to learn that reality is not accurately assessed with an ideological vision but with an integractive vision, a vision founded in the personal formation’s processes, in how the person becomes who he is and who he is called to be, and in the unconditional dignity of every person. It also took me some time and experience to realize that reality can’t be manipulated at the own will, sooner or later it reveals itself. All this influences not only my teaching style but my whole understanding of personal formation. Contemplating reality through an integractive vision definitely helps me to grow not only as the best person I can become, but as the person God calls me to be.

Let’s keep growing!

An Immense Joy

Yesterday was my last day of teaching practicum. We danced the weekend song for a last time. After that I had an activity with my students, titled “Celebrating being the best persons we can be.” We discussed why is important to aim being the best persons we can be (we can change our community, our country and the world by being the best persons we can be!) and how we can become the best persons we can be (be brave, be kind, be yourself…). After that I gave them ceramic medals (they made them weeks ago) that celebrated what they do best, according to themselves, so they could learn to recognize the best in everyone. Here are some pictures of the medals they modeled (I painted them and tied the ribbons):

We had “best sleeper” medals, “best dancer” medals, “best scientific” medals, “best artist” medals, “best student” medals, “best loving my mom” medals, “best gymnast” medal, “best at playing” medals… They were the best in many different things! Here are some pictures of them with the medals:

Finally, after I gave all the medals, including one medal of “best English teacher” to my mentor teacher, I gave a gift to my mentor teacher. I modeled a ceramic plate for him, with his name, inspired in the colors and forms of a world map, because that is what he did: opening a new world, a new horizon, for me. I was very thankful for and I wanted the students to know the meaning of that gift. Here is a picture of that ceramic plate (I also made a similar plate for my supervisor professor and for the dean of the Faculty of Education, who was in my final evaluation as student teacher):

This was my last class of my teaching practicum. I will be going on Monday to the school, but classes ended yesterday.

I admit that at the beginning of the teaching practicum I had fears about if I would be able to do this. Being able to teach for me is not only a matter of passing classes and mastering the subject’s material. Being able to teach is also being able to give the best of yourself, giving who you are, what you do, how you grow, what you project… in a concrete way that serves your community. That is not easy at all. As a matter of fact, I had been trying to do that since long years ago, first as philosopher, and after as a theologian. I failed both times. I had all my past failures very clear in my mind. I had very clear in my mind that my learning style is quite exceptional, that I am an intellectual woman (daring to think by your own and with your own cognitive style is always a risky business, but that is especially true if you are a woman), that my reality vision is also quite exceptional (I will write about that tomorrow)… Those are some of the biggest obstacles I faced in my past in order to accomplish learning how to serve my community.

I expected to have many troubles during the teaching practicum. The first trouble I expected were the students themselves: learning how to manage them and adapting to their level of knowledge (in the pre-practicum I needed to adapt A LOT and when I was a religion teacher I had many problems with class management). A second trouble I expected was problems with giving a class following a lesson plan (during the pre-practicum I was totally unable to do that). Another trouble I was expecting was losing things like tests or students’ stuff (I lost a test and some students’ stuff while I was a religion teacher). Other trouble I expected was problems with obeying my mentor teacher (I am not a naturally obedient person). Besides those “expected troubles”, many other things could go unexpectedly wrong, like not get along with my fellow student teachers, not get along with other teachers, methodological discrepancies or simply not being liked by my students. I had been so used of not being able to serve others that I was simply expecting that something, anything, would go wring this time too, and I wouldn’t be able to pass the teaching practicum after I passed all the necessary classes.

Another thing I expected during the teaching practicum was the need of relying in my reasonable accommodation in order to be able to do things as everyone else, as I had done through all my teaching courses.

Well, everything ended way better than I thought. I really did not have any trouble at all. I really enjoyed it and I will miss my students. I did not need to “obey” my mentor teacher: he always gave me creative freedom. Most surprisingly, I did not need to rely on my reasonable accommodations for functioning like anyone else: I had fewer attention problems while giving classes, and everyone use technology, some even more than me, so it was not an exception made only for me. There were no tests, so there was no anxiety neither.

Being able to finally discover a way to serve my community is an immense joy. After so many years discovering what I am not able to do, I had been finally granted the opportunity to discover something that I am able to do creatively and professionally, something in what I can work and give the best I can give, something in what I am not perfect (for example: my pronunciation was corrected by my own students sometimes) but in what I can learn to become better through the years, as I get more experience.

No matter how good I had been told I did this teaching practicum. I am prepared to the possibility of not finding job for August. Things are very hard in Puerto Rico right now, there are a lot of people that have more experience and talent than me. I will start the master’s degree in August and if I don’t find a job in the next two years, I will move to USA. In order of priority, my favorite places to move are Texas, Florida and California, states that are in the south. I do not get along with the snow and temperature changes!

I am very grateful of everything I have learned. I did not only learn to be a good teacher: I also learned to be a better person, to teach human beings, not only students. For me that is very important.

I expect to complete the process of my teaching certification as ESL teacher in July, once I have my teaching certification tests results (they should have arrived already, but they haven’t) and after I come back from a travel to Miami, Mexico and Central America. I also expect to keep serving my community and practicing my teaching skills with some kind of voluntary work while I get a job as ESL teacher.

I am very grateful to God for the opportunity and the blessing of receiving a teaching vocation. As a “memory” of what I lived during these last months, I got the PBL project of my students: ItsHardToBeASentence

Let’s keep growing!

The True Revolution

At Sundays, I usually write about personal experiences that have influenced my teaching style. Today I will write about something that has caused me some trouble during my college student life, both as graduate and as undergraduate, in Puerto Rico: my national identity. I believe that my nationality is USA, not Puerto Rican. For me, Puerto Rico is not a nation.

In Puerto Rico the conception of national identity is usually mixed up with a partisan view. If you believe that you are from USA, you are assumed to belong to the political party that promotes Puerto Rico’s statehood. If you believe that you are Latin American, you are assumed to belong to the political party that promotes Puerto Rico’s independence. If you believe you are both, you are assumed to belong to the political party that promotes the current political status of Puerto Rico.

For me, the conception of my national identity is not connected to the belonging to a specific political party. I believe that I am both from Unites States and from Latin American, but I don’t identify with any of the political parties of Puerto Rico. I believe that my country and homeland is United States and I believe that Puerto Rico is part of United States, but I don’t belong to the political party that promotes statehood. I believe that from the experience of traveling through Latin America, North America and Europe. You see, it is very easy to say “Puerto Rico is a nation” when you had never been outside Puerto Rico. However, it is very, very difficult to know and live in other nations and affirm that Puerto Rico is a nation. That has been my experience.

Spanish people call “American” to people of the whole continent (as it should be, I think), not only to people from United States. So, I was clearly American for them, but it doesn’t meant they believed that I was from Unites States. All depended in what language I chose to speak, because they don’t know how to notice the difference between United States English and Puerto Rican English: it was American English, period. If I spoke American English, I was assumed to be from United States. If I spoke Caribbean Spanish I was believed to be Latin American, from “somewhere there.” However, the difference between how you were treated if you talked to them in Spanish and how they treated you when you talked them in English was astonishing. I was clearly paid more attention when I talked in English, even if they did not understand me at all. I was even called a very offensive name, “sudaca”, once, because they place where I lived was full of people of South America, so I was assumed to be South American while talking in Spanish (I had no idea of why, because my Spanish accent is clearly Caribbean accent, not South American accent. I did not considered an insult to be considered from South America, but the way it was told to me). I love Spain (I consider it my “mother homeland”) and I knew many people who respected me no matter what language I chose to speak. However, when I lived in the north of Spain, that was the reaction many times. When I lived in the south of Spain the reaction was quite the opposite: I needed to hide my United States passport, speak Spanish and affirm that I was from Puerto Rico (not from United States) in order to avoid stares in certain places. That way I learned about the convenience of having two ways to say the same: I could say “I am from Puerto Rico” or “I am from United States” and “technically” I would not be lying in neither way.

So, how I chose that I am citizen “from United States” and not “from Puerto Rico”? I lived the experience of being in a terrorist attack (of ETA, if you have the curiosity to know) and from that moment on I began to reflect about my national identity, and why some people were capable of kill (or at least, attempt to) in order to affirm their national identity. I began to read and to be more aware of the Puerto Rican colonial status in that process.

Through the months after that terrorist attack I had many sleeping difficulties due a sound in the ears that began after the terrorist blast. I began to have severe memory problems also. I began forgetting very important things around me. For example: I lost my passport three times in a year span. Each one of those times I needed to go to the Embassy of United States in Madrid in order to get an emergency passport, and face a shaming-but-necessary process to prove that I was who I was supposed to be and that I was not selling the lost passports.

That experience taught me that if anything happened to me the place that I would need to go would be that embassy. Puerto Rico’s “national government” had no capability at all to respond to any situation of “its citizens” outside the island. Only United States had it. What kind of nation couldn’t be able to respond for its own citizens? If a nation is not able to respond to its own citizens, it is not a nation at all, because the citizens are the reason of being a nation. All this means that I began to be conscious of what “being from United States” meant while I was living abroad. In Spain I was as citizen of United States as any other citizen of United States would. I was not treated differently just for being Puerto Rican, as it has clearly happened many times when I had been in continental United States. It is a fact that a Puerto Rican may be treated as a “different kind of citizen” when he or she is in continental United States, and that many Americans doesn’t know that Puerto Ricans are United States citizens.

Besides living in Spain (Granada, Pamplona), I have visited some cities of United States (Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia), of Latin America also (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica), and of Canada (Toronto, Quebec). After all those travels, I determined that the “nearest place” to how I lived in Puerto Rico were the cities of Florida, specially Miami.

I feel I should clarify that although I don’t believe that Puerto Rico is a nation and I believe that United States is my homeland, I do believe that there is a Puerto Rican culture. Having a cultural identity that is different of your nationality could be conflictive to some, but for me it isn’t. I don’t see contradiction in being culturally Puerto Rican and being citizen of United States. I am actually proud of it. What I am not proud about is the kind of relation that United States has developed with Puerto Rico. Let’s say it clearly: the current political relation of Puerto Rico with United States functions as a colony, although it cannot be called officially that way. However, no matter how many defects that relation may have, it does exist. Puerto Rico is part of United States, although right now the relation between them it is not in its best shape. For me, resolving this colonial relationship is not a matter of political affairs or partisan affairs: it is a matter of human rights. Puerto Ricans depend on the decisions of a president they can’t vote for, and that is a clear violation of human rights, just to say an example. It is an inconvenient truth for United States, but still it is a truth, no matter how unseen it is.

Although I affirm that Puerto Rico is part of United States and that my nationality is USA, I respect those who doesn’t believe so. I am no one to impose a national identity to any one, but that doesn’t mean that I should be imposed a national identity that I don’t believe I have. Sadly, that could perfectly happen in Puerto Rico through different channels. I will give only one example of this.

While I was a graduate student of theology in Puerto Rico, I proposed the painting Iesu Amor to the Arts Festival of the World Youth Day in Brazil. Usually, to a person be able to do this he or she needs a lot of support. At the beginning, when I shared the I idea, I got plenty of support, enough to be able to believe that I would be able to complete the process of proposing Iesu Amor to the WYD and to begin that process. However, something happened during that process.

I was attending a class about the History of the Church in Puerto Rico. In one of the class discussions, I proposed something “almost heretical”: Puerto Rico should have some kind participation in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a participation similar to the one we have in CELAM, because we are part of United States (I was referring to Puerto Rico’s constitution) and we culturally belong to United States also (not only to Latin America), our parishes are more like Miami parishes than like Latin American parishes, I argued. My classmates and even the professor got angry after hearing that. “Puerto Rico is a nation, we participate in CELAM only.” someone told me. I said clearly that I thought that Puerto Rico is not a nation, but part of United States. I stated that not only because of our constitution, but because what I have learned while living outside Puerto Rico. I caused a huge scandal among my classmates, most of them from the Archdiocese of San Juan, for daring to affirm that Puerto Rico is not a nation. After that incident, many of those people who had offered me their support with the process proposing Iesu Amor to the WYD did not show their support any more. After experiencing the very same issue when I told clearly that I could not apply theology of liberation in the theological part of Iesu Amor (I mean: people who initially supported me withdrawn their support when they knew I was not applying theology of liberation, nor interested to apply it), I chose to keep going with the proposal of Iesu Amor to the WYD by my own, so I could “protect” IesuAmor from becoming a “nationalism symbol” (Iesu Amor is not supposed to have a nationality because God’s Love is universal) or an application of Marxist ideology (we studied the first document written about the theology of liberation and it clearly quoted Marx, and I couldn’t apply that kind of theology to Iesu Amor because it reduces the human person. That was one of the reasons to develop a theology of my own for creating Iesu Amor). I did absolutely everything that a whole team of people and experts should do, including reviewing that Iesu Amor and the theology of light was aligned and agreed with the Church’s Magisterium, with my own available resources. I was able to send the painting to the WYD, but it didn’t returned to Puerto Rico.

Of course, everyone is in all his right to not support what they can’t agree with. But declining to support what is supposed to be an ecclesial project, like creating and sharing ecclesially and internationally a painting that imagines the Love of God, just because the author does not believe that Puerto Rico is a nation, or just because the author is not a liberation theologian, taught me that ideologies can be very dangerous. At the very end, it was like doing the same thing that the terrorist did in the terrorist blast I lived in Spain, but intellectually. I mean: terrorists are capable of killing a person for their ideology, so, attempting to kill an idea because that idea does not get along with the own ideology is doing the same thing than a terrorist, but intellectually.

I thought this issue very carefully before choosing to keep going with the proposal of Iesu Amor to the WYD by my own. Puerto Rico have a huge “politization” problem: everything is “politized” (mixed with politics). I needed to avoid Iesu Amor to be politized, and for doing that I needed to have the whole creative control of Iesu Amor’s proposal process. It was not a “nationalization” issue: although I believe that Puerto Rico is part of United States, Iesu Amor is not meant to promote statehood neither, so I needed to avoid any political interpretation of what I was doing, in an environment where everything was highly “politized” and “socialized” (with “socialized” I mean “seen mainly from a social perspective”. That “breaks” the integractive vision of the theology of light, that integrates the organic dimension, the ontological dimension and the social dimension). I thought all these issues when I chose to keep going with Iesu Amor’s proposal alone and to do everything that I could to protect the idea that Iesu Amor truly meant to promote: the “visualization of God’s Love” in the whole personal formation; the process of informing, conforming, transforming and reforming the own personal formation as a living sign, a visible sacrament, of that Love.

It took me a while to realize that, although it was not my intention, Iesu Amor also became, somehow, a “nationality proposal” for me: I was proposing myself another kind of nationality, a “national identity” that is not founded in a partisan view, or even in belonging to a specific a country, but in living God’s Love, in living charity. I think Saint Paul explains this better than me, so I am not going to deepen this. It was my Puerto Rican culture what taught me to call Jesus “my Love” (in Puerto Rico, it is very common to call people “my love”), but Iesu Amor taught me to transcend cultural views and transform it in a broader vision, a vision of fraternity among cultures (including between Puerto Rican culture, Latin American cultures and American culture), and even among nations. It also took me a while to realize that with Iesu Amor I was also serving my nation and my cultures: I was proposing a fraternity (sacramental fraternity) that can help to be, to do, to grow and to radiate all kind of people and to affirm the dignity of the humanity of everyone.

Let me be very clear in one important detail related with my “choice” of nationality and Puerto Ricans’ dignity: you need to have a “charity vision” to forgive many injustices that have been committed to Puerto Ricans by United States. I am not blind to the fact that United States has denied the dignity of Puerto Ricans many times in their ways to deal with Puerto Rican affairs. If you want to know more about those errors, you can read “War Against All Puerto Ricans,” by Nelson A. Denis. However, with a “charity vision” it is possible to choose historical forgiveness, to embrace all the growth that USA has brought to Puerto Rico and to be able to affirm with personal pride (not ideological pride) that your culture is Puerto Rican, Latin American, Spanish and American, and your nation is United States.

How all these experiences about my national identity influence my teaching style? It has influenced me in several ways. A first way is that I try to avoid to become an “intellectual terrorist”: I avoid to attempt to kill ideas that are not agree with my vision, I simply let everyone create their ideas as they choose if they do it in a respectful manner. This also means that I teach to my students all kind of ideas, not only those which I am agree with. A second way this influences my teaching style is that I do not make nationality distinctions in my students: for me they are all human beings, sons and daughters of God. A third way is that I avoid all kind of nationalism in my classroom. I actually even avoid using the expression “my nation”, but when I use it, I let each student decide what “nation” means, without letting them assume that If someone says “nation” he means “USA” just because I mean “USA” when I use the same expression. I call this an “open-meaning word”. For me, letting them assume that “nation” can only mean “USA”, or that that nation can only mean “Puerto Rico”, would be intellectual proselytism. For example: I have seen instances where the expression “our nation” is used as equal to “Puerto Rico” in ecclesial documents, and that equals to implicitly exclude from the Church everyone who doesn’t believes that Puerto Rico is “our nation”, but USA. I avoid that kind of situation in my classroom by letting everyone choose what “nation” means when using that word, without imposing or even promoting a specific definition, or my own definition.

Another way that these experiences has influenced my teaching style is that I when I need speak about the Puerto Rican nationality issue to my students, I speak about all the options, letting the students to “build” their own view and make their own choices about their nationality, respecting whatever they want to affirm. Other way this has influences my teaching style is in my choice of showing respect to both anthems and flags (Puerto Rico and United States’ anthem and flag), no matter if those who are around me choose to only show respect to the Puerto Rican anthem and flag, and of teaching my students to do the same because all anthems and flags should be respected. Finally, this has taught me that is very important to affirm the value of the human person always, inside the classroom also. The human person is worthier than any other thing. It is not worthy to try to “break” a person for the sake of nationalism, or any other ideology. If you can’t agree with someone, never try to impose your view, because that is not respectful and you can cause damage. It is OK if we do not agree with someone’s view, but it is not OK if we can’t respect each other’s views. Usually this is a very important lesson for my students, no matter in which form it is applied (believe me, this lesson can be applied to many different circumstances).

A final idea to conclude this blog post: I do believe that we need to be aware of our duty to serve our nation and our homeland (whatever you believe it is) with our personal growth, through becoming who we are meant to be. It is often believed that to change a nation a revolution is needed. I think that changing a nation begins with changing the own personal formation in order to be the best person we can be. If you want to change your nation, be the change you wish to create in your homeland. (In Spanish: Si quieres cambiar tu nación, sé el cambio que deseas crear en tu patria). The true revolution begins with each person’s choice of living charity, of radiating God’s Love, of incarnating fraternity, of creating communion. I have read several times that someone told, I don’t remember right now who, that “love is love”. I can say it in a different way: God is Love. God’s Love––a Love that is a Person, a personal encounter that radiates life in communion, not an ideology––can change not only our personal formation but our nation if we choose to let us inform, conform, transform and reform by that Love. A teacher can change a nation with his or her example of Love. A parent can change a nation with his or her growth in Love. A builder can change a nation with his or her work of Love. We all have the amazing opportunity of creating a better nation for all through helping to be, helping to do, helping to grow and helping to radiate God’s Love, beginning with our personal formation.

Let’s keep growing!

A Very Joyful Time

This week we began to study our last unit: verbs. I planned a lesson plan that is a little bit different from my own usual style: this time I did not use a Power Point presentation to explain the whole lesson or part of it. I choose to not use technology this time in order to create a more kinesthetic learning environment. This lesson plan has more movement and game time and less technology and “screen time”. Here is the lesson plan: Verbs Lesson Plan

I gave them a pre-assessment instrument before beginning the verbs lesson plan. I realized that they know the definition of a verb, but they need help to apply it in a sentence. They also need help understanding what a mental action verb is, and understanding what a verb tense is and how to distinguish them.

For explaining the verb tenses, I went with them to the basketball court of the school. I brought several kind of balls: a basketball ball, a tennis ball and a soccer ball. I wrote several regular verbs in a portable whiteboard: play, kick, dribble, bounce… and explained each tense through asking them to do the action of each verb with the ball they choose. The past tense should be used when the action already happened, the present tense should be using when the action is happening, and the future tense should be used when the action is going to happen. They got it quite fast. I avoided to use irregular verbs because they are not expected to know that yet, but they suggested to practice the verb tenses while using the balls with the verb “throw”. Although it was not in the lesson plan, I needed to explain the definition of irregular verbs and then let them use the verb “throw”. I will ask the definition of irregular verbs as a bonus in the test.

There was another tricky issue while teaching this. My plan was teaching them the simple verb tenses only: the simple past, the simple present and the simple future. However, when I asked them to tell me the verb in “present”, most of the times they told the verb in present progressive, not in simple present. That required to teach the difference between the progressive verb tenses and the simple verb tenses, although that was not planned neither.

On Wednesday I was evaluated by my teaching practicum supervisor professor. I did some minor mistakes, but despite them the class was quite good. I integrated the enduring understanding (why our actions are important), I helped the students to recapitulate what was taught in the previous days, I created a verb spinner for the students, so they could demonstrate that they know how to apply what has been taught while playing with the spinner, and I let them explain me the simple verb tense and how to distinguish each verb tense. The verb spinner thing was so fun for them that the students that were not able to participate due lack of time asked me to let them do it in the next class. The grade of this evaluation was higher than the first one.

I prepared a review handout for the students, for helping them to prepare for next week’s test, and a test announcement, so their parents could know when checking the notebooks that their kids have a test. Here are the image of the review handout and the test announcement:

Verbs Review.jpg

Verbs Review 2

Test Announcement Verbs

I learned some lessons during this week. One of them is that a teacher must be flexible with the schedules, so I should not get frustrated due not being able to follow the “expected schedule” because my class time must be moved of period, or because I finish my class a few minutes late, or because a student required to be given extra time to finish a work, or because I needed more time to complete a document properly. The class calendar is a necessary guide, but it is not written in stone. It must be flexible enough to give everyone the chance to teach and learn properly, but without losing its discipline. Another very important lesson is that students can really surprise you if you give them the chance to show you what they can do better, you just need to give them the opportunity. Other important lesson was learning to offer help only if the student wanted it, because if they don’t want it, they may feel that they are not allowed to do things by their own. I apologized to the student that explained me that he felt I was not letting him to do things by his own when I asked him if he needed help from a classmate. He surprised me with his thought because he usually is a very shy boy. I believe in asking and giving help, but only when it is needed, without interfering with each one’s capacity of independence. Everyone must be allowed to do what is able to do by his or her own. A final lesson was that it is especially important to give some space to exceptional students to do things in their own way, because you may cause a crisis if you try to force them to follow a specific pattern that is unfitted to them. Giving some space doesn’t mean to allow them to not follow the same rules than others. It means letting them to do in their own way what others do with a different method. Everyone is following the same system, but through different methods. I call this “methodological flexibility.”

Fourth grade had a very heart-warming activity for teachers this week. In their math class they made a very particular exercise: they estimated and calculated how much time each teacher spent for teaching them. After calculating those hours, they planned an activity for saying “thank you” to the teachers for all the time dedicated to them. In their activity they offered the teachers, including the student teachers, a hand massage with smelly creams. They also offered us coffee, a cheese-and-fruits healthy snack and a handmade bookmark. They even had nice background music while giving the hand massage! The teachers truly enjoyed and appreciated it.

The “what-do-you-do-best medals” that we did during the ceramics workshop are already fired. I spent some time in the arts workshop painting them with yellow glaze because for me yellow is the color of joy. They should be ready for next week final activity. I can’t believe I am almost saying “good bye” to these kids. All the time spent teaching them had been a very joyful time for me. It had been a gift and a blessing  learning how to helping them to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best person they could be and become.

Let’s keep growing!

An Amazing Journey

During this week my third grade class completed the Project Based Learning (PBL) unit plan. Last Wednesday most students of third grade gave an oral presentation about the page they created. They presented themselves, presented their pages, explained why they created their pages the way they did, explained what media they used to create their pages, explained what they would do better in a next time and gave thanks to their classmates for their attention. Most used crayons and color pencils to make their pages. The most common details they said they would do better a next time is writing a bigger text, coloring the background and align the drawing better.

Yesterday we had the read-aloud of the product of the PBL, the e-book, with the third-grade students of the Luis Muñoz Rivera Elementary School, a public school that is just besides the UPR Elementary School. We had a lot of fun learning together! The Arts teacher was kind enough to let me give my class in his classroom. First, we discussed together what is a sentence and how do we usually recognize a sentence. Then I explained the process of creating a “sentence” as a protagonist character for our story: Mr. Sentence. Then I presented the tittle of the e-book: It’s Hard To Be A Sentence! I began to read-aloud the e-book with the help of the students, discussing how we can make Mr. Sentence happy. Through the story we discussed the characteristics of a written sentence, the parts of a complete sentence and the kinds of sentence of sentence. The kids participated actively from the beginning to the end of the read-aloud. After the read-aloud, some students wrote in the whiteboard examples of sentences that would make Mr. Sentence happy. They verified that each example was a complete sentence, they identified which kind of sentence each example was and they corrected the sentence If necessary.  After that they had a time for sharing together a simple snack: gummy worms candy, bananas, Cameos, Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Capri Sun juice, besides the water that is always available at the classroom. I thought they would not eat all the bananas, but they did ate them all, around 25 very big bananas! Actually, they ate everything, as any happy kid would do.

Here are pictures of the read-aloud:

Read-Aloud 1Read-Aloud 2Read-Aloud 3Read-Aloud 4Read-Aloud 5Read-Aloud 6Read-Aloud 7

A few students that were not able to give their oral presentation on Wednesday gave it today. Today the students, all of them, also danced the Weekend song. Here is a video of part of the Weekend song:

p

We had a few free minutes today in class, so I asked the students to take a photo together for the e-book. They had casual day today, so today was a perfect day for a photo! Here are the pictures we took together:

Besides sharing it with the students of the nearest elementary public school, the final product of this PBL, the e-book, will be shared with the student’s parents also, via email. I am in the process of gathering all the emails.

Now I am preparing to begin the final unit plan: verbs. It will begin on Monday with an effect of instruction instrument: an instrument to measure how much they know about a theme before beginning to discuss it. Those results are compared with the student’s results of the summative assessment, the evaluation after the theme had been discussed in class. I am enjoying so much my teaching practicum that beginning my last unit plan is a true pity to me. This semester had been truly short for me!

As a personal note, I must say that I am discovering that for me teaching is not only can be a professional vocation: it can be also a faith-based vocation. I believe that being able to teach is a gift given by God to serve others a Jesus did. As I had told in other blog posts, I usually do not talk to the students about my faith in order to let them embrace their own preferred beliefs, but even if I do not say nothing about my faith, I am “radiating” it through my personal formation, through my growth and my works. Discovering this way of living my faith, a way that is not ideological at all but “integractive”, based in helping to be, in helping to do, in helping to grow and in helping to radiate every human being unconditionally (as God does), beginning with my students, had been an amazing journey! I thought all this yesterday, while contemplating how the students were participating in the read-aloud and how to help them to understand better what we were discussing (they were having problems to distinguish between an imperative sentence and a declarative sentence because both may end with a period. I helped them to distinguish the content of an imperative sentence and the content of a declarative sentence). Yes, I am able to pray and teach at the same time without the students noticing it! This doesn’t mean I am perfect, I have a lot of things to improve, but that I am choosing to embrace teaching as a faithful service to my students, as Jesus served His disciples through obeying His Father in unity to the Holy Spirit. I am discovering that teaching can be an amazing way to cultivating faith, to live the works of mercy, to form my personal formation as a work of God’s Love and to grow in communion.

Let’s keep growing!

Two Amazing Opportunities

Last week was the school’s English week. The third grade celebrated it with a poetry recital. The ten students who won the place to be in the finals during the try-outs made an outstanding recital of the same poem (The Voice, by Shel Silverstein). The ten students did it great, but a jury composed of three ESL student teachers chose the three students that did it best: two girls (first and third place) and one boy (second place). The first three places won a medal, besides the book I bought for the first three places. The others won a participation ribbon. They did the poetry recital in front of some parents and all their third grade classmates. After the poetry recital, we enjoyed a cookies-and-juice snack together.

Here are some pictures of the poetry recital and a video of the student who won the third place:

In the night between Friday and Saturday third grade had a sleep over night. That night was full of activities! Look at the pictures of the snack tables prepared by their parents, they were amazing!:

The first activity of the night was a living museum (students dressed like some historical people). After that they participated in a play. After the play, they had a music recital with flutes. You can see in these photos how packed was the music classroom were all these activities happened!:

After the music recital they had dinner, and after that I made an activity with them: a ceramics workshop. We created a clay medal to celebrate what we do best. For example: some made a medal with the inscription “best singer”, or “best student”. There were varied medals. At the end, I kept them in ziploc bags in order to prepare them for the clay oven. My ceramic’s professor helped me a lot with the process of designing the workshop and simplifying my ideas. We had a lot of fun, and they learned to apply the superlative “best” (almost all of them got that superlative adjective wrong in the comparative and superlative adjective test because it’s irregular). Here are some pictures of the medals they sculpted in the ceramic’s workshop:

After the ceramics workshop they had a movie night with popcorn included. They chose to see “Lego Movie”. They began to fall asleep during the movie. I stayed awake until 2 am and there were still voices speaking in very low tones at that hour, but they were very few. Almost most of them were already sleeping.

They woke up at 7:00 am (the parents and teachers woke up around 6:00 to help to prepare everything they needed) with soft hits of pillows given by the teachers. They were too tired to fight the teachers back. After they woke up we suddenly became sleeping bag packing experts: the parents (some parents stayed with us, but not all of them, some arrived early in the morning to prepare the breakfast) and teachers needed to pack around 15 sleeping bags (they were 19 students, and most of them brought sleeping bags) as fast as we could to re-organize the classroom. Meanwhile, the students changed clothes and had some hygiene time. After parents, teacher and students finished to do our respective things, the breakfast was ready. We shared everything with a great joy due being together. We all helped to clean and leave everything as it was before the sleep over. The students played a little bit, received some gift bags, and shortly after we all left.

At the beginning of this week the students kept working with their Project Based Learning (PBL) activity. My mentor teacher explained them that his is a good example of team work, because creating this e-book needed the participation of everyone to be a success. Each one created his or her page, and then began working in their tomorrow’s oral presentations. I created a graphic organizer for helping the students to prepare their oral presentations. Here is a picture of the graphic organizer:

Oral Inform Graphic Organizer

The sleeping over and the PBL had been two amazing opportunities for us to experience how to teach and learn with a different approach. I am very grateful for both opportunities!

Let’s keep growing!

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!