Integractive Sciences: A New Humanization

I strongly believe that one of the deepest problems of the education of our times is its lack of integractive sciences. But before writing about that, let’s clarify what I mean with “integractive sciences.”

Integractive sciences are the sciences of the person: the sciences that study the persons and how they become who they are and who they are called to be. The integractive sciences integrate three faculties: Education, Social Sciences and Humanities, including arts and theology.

Why I call the studies of these faculties “integractive sciences”? Because they can’t follow the method of the natural sciences, so used to “dissect” what it studies. The persons cannot be “dissected”: they must be studied as they integrate, act, realize and project themselves; they must be studied “integractively”. The word “integration” is the union of the concepts “integration”, “action”, “realization” and “projection”, the four phases of integraction as model of human formation.

May be is necessary to redefine a little bit what we call “scientific method”, giving the space to create an “integractive method” as “scientific method” for integractive sciences. The fact is that we cannot pretend to understand the person by “dissecting” his nature, as natural sciences tend to do. We can only understand and study the person with the union of humanities, social sciences and humanities, all together. This requires an “integractive” approach. We cannot keep these faculties separated, proposing that the person is something in one of them and then proposing another thing in the other faculty. They must be integrated because that is how the human person grows: integractively.

Does this means that other sciences and faculties, like natural sciences, health sciences, law, business… are not needed to understand how the person integrates, acts, realizes and projects? I do not mean that exactly. Integractive sciences and natural sciences complement each other. The application of natural sciences, health sciences and any other science is necessary to understand certain aspects of personal growth, but the essential sciences to understand how the person become who he is and who is called to be are the integractive sciences. For example: you can apply natural sciences to the study of the person, but you can’t understand the person through natural sciences by its own.

This had been one of the hugest mistake of our times: reducing the study of the person to the application of natural sciences, or aiming to study integractive sciences with the same method of natural sciences, “dissecting” the integraction of the human person, and so reducing the human identity to “social constructs”, for example. This must change. The human person must be understood “integractively” in order to embrace our identity as we grow more fully humanely.

Our schools are depleted with natural sciences, but the only integractive science that is usually taught is history. That’s a problem. We cannot be surprised that our students get bored in schools that do not help them to understand better who they are, how they grow as persons, and how they are called to be: better human beings everyday. We need to connect what they learn with a better personal growth and a better world. Only through teaching integractive sciences we can aim to build a society for peace, where everyone treats each other as human being and as brother, serving the common good and avoiding all kinds of dehumanization that are destroying today’s world. It is time to propose the creation of schools specialized in integractive sciences, where technology and natural sciences, among other disciplines, are applied to the study of the person.

Weeks ago, I read a quote from Nelson Mandela that I do not remember literally right now, but it proposed that if hate can be learned, love can be learned too. Let’s paraphrase that quote: If dehumanization can be learned, humanity and human rights can be learned too. We can learn how to grow until become the best person we can be. We can only create peace if we learn how to help everyone to grow as the best persons they can be. I call this “new humanization”: an integractive conception of how to become the best persons we can be as human beings. Noticed that I didn’t say “to become the best persons we can be as republicans”, or as democrats, or as homosexual, or as conservative…No: I said “as human beings.

We need a new humanization. We need to learn how to see each other first and foremost as human beings, as brother called to grow together. We are not our genders. We are not our political affiliation. We are not our sexual orientation. We are human beings, called to be loved and to grow unconditionally in fraternity, justice and peace.

There is a wonderful world in taino language, “goeiz”, that means “the spirit of a living person.” We must aim to embrace the spirit of a living person, the spirit of a person that is human and keeps growing as better human being everyday. This is also part of living the Christian faith: “The glory of God is the human person is fully alive” (St. Irenaeus).

We can only keep our students engaged with their education by teaching them how to apply what they are learning to their own human growth; by helping them to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best persons they can be. The opposite is dehumanizing them. We cannot keep dehumanizing our society through a dehumanizing education, an education that focus more on ideologies than in the human being and personal growth. We need to search together new ways and paths to create a more human world, a world where everyone can understand how they grow as persons, how to become the best persons they can be, and how to find the tools and resources needed to be able to do so. We need to teach that a human being can never be treated as an object, or as a mean, or reduced through dehumanization, through the ideological laceration of his human identity.

Together, we can make that possible. Together, we can make possible a more human world for everyone.

Let’s keep growing!

Becoming a Work of Love

I wrote an essay today for the professional seminar of my teaching practicum. In this essay I am supposed to write about what I have learned through the teaching practicum, what are my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, what are my expectations and projections as a teacher, and what I can give to my country and my people as a teacher. I usually share this kind of essays on Sundays, but because next Sunday I will not be able to share anything due being outside Puerto Rico (in Miami), I chose to share this essay today, the same day I wrote it. It may also be seen as a tribute for all the brave people who have given and are giving their lives to our country and to make our free growth possible, not only for those in the military, but also for all the citizens that strive a better growth and a better country for all.

Becoming a Work of Love 

What is the most important thing I have learned as a student teacher? That I am not only teaching students: I am teaching human beings. I am not only an ESL teacher: I am a public server whose being, action, realization and projection is a growth model for those who I teach. I have the capacity to create the change that my nation needs with my personal growth and my teacher’s lessons. As John. F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what can you do for your country.” I have discovered as a student teacher what I can do for my country as a fellow American and also as a Christian: creating a culture of sacramental Love, communicating humanity and affirming unconditionally the best growth possible for every person through helping to be, helping to do, helping to grow and helping to radiate everyone as the best person that each one can become; as a sacrament of God’s Love, capable of radiating that Love with his or her personal formation’s growth. As I taught my lessons as student teacher I learned to contemplate each student not only as a student and as a person, but as a human being in process of becoming a “work of Love,” a living sign of God’s Love. Every person is actually sacred and has the potentiality of becoming a sacrament of Love, and through my lessons I was able to learn a concrete way to honor that sacralization and sacramentalization as I served my students with ESL lessons.

How prepared I feel to teach? To be sincere with myself, I think that I have many things to learn yet, but I also think that that is part of my own process of becoming the best person and teacher I can be. I hope to find good mentors along the way for keep growing as a teacher until becoming the best teacher I can be.

What are my strengths? I think that my deepest strength is my formation in the Faculty of Humanities. That helps me to teach departing from the human being, not from the “curriculum”.  Let’s say this in other way: for me, integrating my student’s personal formation is an essential part of the curriculum. It works wonders as a class management technique too, although it was not my intention to use it that way. When students see that you care for them, respect them as persons and want to help them to become the best persons they can be, they get more engaged and get more conscious of the importance of learning how to control themselves and behave better. This is part of embracing learning as a personal formation process, not as an academic process or a mere information transmission process. I have learned that class management is not a matter of following rules in the first place but a matter of integrating humanity in the first place and then following rules.

In what areas I need improvement? My grammar teaching skills definitively need improvement. I have a lot of learning ahead about grammar. The root of this deficiency is that I am not good at grammar in my first language, Spanish, neither. It is very hard to me to define the form and understand the function of all words (I am very used to abduct those that I don’t know, and the abduction is usually right). However, I achiever to understand some terms that I was not able to understand before as I studied them for teaching them (for example: as easy as it seems, I just understood what is the progressive verb tense and how to difference it from the simple verb tense as I discussed them with my third graders). Other area where I need improvement is pronunciation, but this can be easily improved by moving to United States and talking English on a daily basis. How do I compensate these weaknesses? Mainly, through consulting grammar books for understanding better whatever I need to understand in order to teach it, and also through hearing music and movies in English. That helps me to get the correct pronunciation of words (I had never been able to learn pronunciation through the phonetic transcriptions of the words…).

What are my expectatives and projections? My expectative is to be an ESL teacher somewhere in the United States after finishing my master’s degree in Differentiated Education. I am thinking in a place that has a good teaching mentorship program, good integration of technology, decent teaching resources, some professional development time and a strong Latino population. A decent salary and patronal contribution to the Social Security (teachers in the public system in Puerto Rico doesn’t have Social Security contribution, and for me is very important to contribute to the Social Security, I believe it should be a duty for everyone in working age) would be a plus. My projection is becoming a better teacher and a better human being, wherever I could be, and becoming a work of Love that radiates God’s Love through her personal formation’s growth.

What I can give to my country, United States? This is a very interesting question because in Puerto Rico what is usually asked is what United States can give to Puerto Rico. What I can give to United States? I can create through my lessons and teaching style a culture of sacramental Love: a culture where we all see us as living sacraments in the process of becoming a work of Love. For a Christian this necessarily means praying, living the Church’s sacraments and growing in ecclesial unity, but I can also see my students as living signs in the process of becoming a work of Love without teaching them about my faith but about our humanity and our personal formation: how we are all human beings, how is our personal formation (what we all have in common in our growth), how we are all called to grow in communion and human fraternity, how we are all called to be the best persons we can be, how we are called to help each other to become the best person we can be… This is what being American is about for me: helping others unconditionally to be the best persons they can be. This definition of being American is not based in any partisan view, but in an unconditional pro-growth vision, in an unconditional humanity vision.

What I can give to my people, Puerto Rico? Besides what I just said, that applies perfectly here too, I can give to Puerto Rico a definition of being Puerto Rican that doesn’t depends on partisan views but in personal formation: what makes us Puerto Ricans is how we help us to be, to do, to grow and to radiate each other, with enchantment and warmth, with a vision of unconditional hospitality and cultural integration that is truly Puerto Rican. I don’t believe in any definition of being Puerto Rican that depends on our political status struggle, in any partisan view, or in any linguistic view (for example: you can be Puerto Rican and not knowing Spanish, or you can be Puerto Rican and not knowing English). Our political status struggle is very real and a huge problem of human rights, but we need to learn how to see us beyond what divide us and then works towards overcoming our differences with respect, as human equals, as brothers and sisters of the same human family. This begins with an education that is strongly based on promoting the best personal formation possible for everyone, including both students and teachers, not based solely in the decisions of the political party in power or in economic choices. There should be a ten year goal plan for the Department of Education that aims a structure that is independent from the changes related with elections and political power.

Teaching English, for me, is a way to promote the best personal growth possible among my students, among my people and among my country. For me, this is the key lesson of our times: we are all human beings, we are all a human family, we are all deserving of the best growth possible. We can’t keep teaching with our growth to help only those who are convenient to a certain ideology of political party’s views. We need to teach that we are all unconditionally called to growth, that we are all in the process of becoming a work of Love, so we need to help us each other as human beings, loving each other with unconditional humanity. If you want to see this from a Christian view, we can say that we all are a miracle of God’s Love in the process of becoming a sacrament of His Love. This is what I dream to teach as a teacher and as a person: how to become the best persons we can be, how to be, do, grow and radiate until becoming a work of Love.

Because I believe that teachers are public servers, I will end this essay with the same line that some elected public servers usually end their oath of service:

So help me God…

The Happiest Teacher On Earth

Today I am going to share an essay that I wrote for one of my University classes: Teaching ESL Writing. The task was writing an essay about a picture, and I chose a very special picture for me: Iesu Amor (the painting I made for imaging God’s Love) being exhibited in the Art’s Festival of the World Youth Day in Brazil. This essay explains what makes me “the happiest teacher on Earth.”

Here is the essay:

The Happiest Teacher On Earth


This picture is the portrait of the exhibition of a painting that I created, titled “Iesu Amor” (“Jesus Love” or “Jesus Charity” in English).

How I had the idea of creating an icon that imagined the Love of God? Everything began in an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharist was exposed for viewing, clearly visible to my sight. I had the idea of creating an icon that “imagined” God as Love in order to “discover” my vocation, which was supposedly lost (or so I believed in that moment). I was a moment of crisis in my life. I had no idea of where I belonged, where and how I could serve with my talents, or if I could be able to live my faith as catholic.

I began reading the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, of Pope Benedict XVI, and contemplating it in prayer, in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in my own room, through adoring God’s presence with my whole personal growth. Little by little, each form of the painting began to be discerned through this contemplation. I can’t mention all the symbols that the painting contain, but I can mention the first ones that were clear in my heart once I began to create a “visual imagination” of God’s Love.

The first shape of the painting to be discerned and formed was Jesus himself: the way that human being is able to “imagine” God’s Love is through Jesus, the incarnation of that Love. This choice of this imagination is inspired in two very concrete sentences of the Deus Caritas Est: “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words, the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” So, the image of a God that is Love must be a Person: Jesus of Nazareth. This is the most basic form shaped in Iesu Amor.

The next shape to be discerned was how to imagine the nature of the “breath” (being) and “do” (action) of Jesus in unity. I discerned that with a figure of a resurrected Jesus that was in a wall behind the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament: I realized that I could imagine Jesus’ nature as light, both in the sense of light as being and light as verb, by painting him like a “living star of Heaven”, a resurrected Jesus that was a morning star, like the Book of Revelation’s star. That way, I chose to paint Jesus radiating light from the eyes, from the tunic (the own body) and from the lamp. Discerning this was harder than it seems. It was not simple for me finding a way to paint the nature of Jesus that I was contemplating through the reading of the Deus Caritas Est.

The next form to be discerned was the “giftedness”, the personal self-giving through communion. Because Jesus’ self-giftedness to the Church is complete, the painting must be a gift to the whole Church. I imagined this form in a very particular way: instead of painting this giftedness, I made the whole painting an “ecclesial gift”: I proposed it as a gift for Pope Francis. It never materialized that way, and as a matter of fact it was a way too simple painting to be considered a gift for the Pope, I knew it, but the important thing for God was the disposition. All this is inspired in the sentence of the Deus Caritas Est that says “Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.” The encyclical says that “In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant”. To that I add: in a world where the name of God is often associated with profit and worldly success, personal giftedness, learning to give us as freely as Jesus gives himself to the Church, is a timely message.

Finally, is a part in the Deus Caritas Est that says: “Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God… Love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God and that closing the eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God.” I shaped this idea in a very particular way: Jesus is walking towards the center, towards the person, towards the neighbor… He is not walking to the right nor to the left, but towards the front, were the person who is contemplating him is. Also, the eyes are wide open, looking to the person and radiating light.

Although I did finish the painting itself, and shared it in the Arts Festival of the World Youth Day of Brazil (were this picture was taken) this creative project became the project of my life: to shape God’s Love in my own personal formation. Therefore this photo means a lot to me: it imagines the creative goal of my life, sharing and radiating God’s Love, humanely and ecclesially. As an ESL teacher, this means that teaching for me is an act of love, that I contemplate every student as person in the process of becoming a work of God’s Love and that I am called to help them to be, to do, to grow and to radiate unconditionally, and to learn to love them through my lessons as God loves us. This is a responsibility, but also a gift that makes me the happiest teacher and person on Earth.

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!

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!

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!









My Graduate School Admission Essay

I plan to finish my studies leading to my certification as elementary ESL teacher at June 2018. After that, the plan is to get a job during the days and to study a master’s degree during the nights. I am eager to begin working, I do not see myself studying full time more time beyond the necessary. I am currently requesting admission to the graduate program of the Faculty of Education at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. I am interested in studying a master in Differentiated Education. I think it is a good combination with the ESL certification and with my interest in personal-formation based learning. I want to study at UPRRP because they have a very good institutional support system for the reasonable accommodations.

In order to request admission to that program they require a few things: completing the admission’s form with two recommendation letters, the EXADEP or the GRE (the graduate admissions test), a bachelor’s degree, a minimum of 3.00 undergraduate GPA (that is proved by sending two transcripts) and an admission’s essay.

I began the admission’s process with the two recommendation letters. I requested a recommendation letter to my pre-practicum teacher and another one to my practicum supervisor professor in December, so that part was easy to complete.

What about doing the EXAPEP or the GRE? I could do the GRE in English but I chose to do the EXADEP in Spanish for the simply reason that it was cheaper than the GRE and I needed no reasonable accommodation for doing the EXADEP (it did not had any handwritten part or any written part that needs extra time to complete). These are my EXADEP scores:


Considering that the graduate program I am requesting to be admitted does not require a minimum score (some graduate programs in the same faculty and in the UPR require an EXADEP minimum score of 500), 667 is a very good score, specially the English score, where I got a 75. The maximum score per part is 80. I expected a lower score in math and analytic reasoning not because a lack of analytical reasoning but because I have not studied math since high school and I could not pay a review for taking this test, as I did for the PCMAS (the teacher certification test). It was my lower score indeed, but it was higher than the expected score if I considered my circumstances with maths (I had never liked math a lot and I had never been good at them neither).

The undergraduate GPA of my Humanities bachelor’s degree was 2.90 when I graduated, but that was before taking all my ESL teacher certification classes, where I have got all A’s except for one B in a Humanities literature class (that profesor was too memory-based, his assessment was based in asking very small details of our readings in a multiple-choice test, without any discussion of the literature work; that’s why I got a B in an elective class). With all the A’s I got in the ESL teacher certification program, surely that GPA got above 3.00, so I had no problems with that requirement neither. I sent my two transcripts without hesitation. Although I have not checker exactly where my GPA is, I assume that it is above the 3.00 minimum GPA. I will request a student transcript and check that out soon.

Finally, I needed to write an admissions essay. This part delayed the completion of my graduate school admissions forms during weeks, since the lasts weeks of December to be more exact. I had an idea of what things I wanted to write, but the instruction of doing it in only 500 words requires time and patience from my part, because I tend to use a lot of words and integrate many diverse ideas when I write essays. I finally chose which ideas and details I wanted to include and completed my essay a few days ago, using exactly 500 words. I focused it on my research interests, my professional interests and on personal perspectives pertinent to the studies I wanted to pursue.

My graduate admissions essay is this one (in Spanish):

¿Por qué me interesa completar una maestría en educación diferenciada e investigar el cómo aplicar el Project Based Learning (PBL) en la educación diferenciada? Hay al menos tres razones: una personal, una académica y una profesional.

La razón personal para querer investigar la aplicación del PBL en la educación diferencida es que yo misma soy una estudiante excepcional. De hecho, soy twice-exceptional: tengo ADD y también soy gifted (Mi IQ es de 140). Sé en carne propia las dificultades que puede confrontar un estudiante excepcional a la hora de aprender: el aburrimiento feroz ante un trabajo que no requiera aplicar, la profunda impotencia por no poder hacer las cosas como los demás, la gran frustración que provoca confrontar el que un maestro piense que eres “bruta” el mero hecho de no ser aprender según su método… Todo esto lo he vivido en carne propia. Estoy determinada a encontrar métodos que ayuden a la población excepcional a aprender de manera más integractiva. El concepto de “educación integractiva” me lo inventé yo. El término “integractivo” une los vocablos “integración”, “acción” y “realización”. Esas tres palabras me parecen fundamentales para estudiar la educación diferenciada de tal forma que abarque la totalidad de la formación personal. La formación personal es importante para mí porque pienso que lo que más caracteriza a la educación diferenciada es que necesariamente se aplica a la persona, cosa que debería ser una meta para toda educación, no solo la diferenciada.

La razón académica, intrínsecamente unida a la razón personal, para querer investigar la aplicación del PBL en la educación diferenciada es que es un tema que necesita ser investigado. Al buscar respecto al tema solo encontré, y con mucho esfuerzo, dos artículos en inglés. No hay un solo libro en Amazon respecto al tema. Así pues, este tema es uno en el que puedo hacer una aportación académica relevante. Si bien es cierto que hay muy pocas referencias de este tema en las bases de datos disponibles en la biblioteca de la UPR, hay algunos artículos que pueden dar luz respecto a cómo conseguir más referencias en otras bases de datos. Además, la maestría de educación especial provee la oportunidad de hacer un action research, pues tiene una práctica integrada, por lo que hay otros medios para investigar el tema.

Finalmente, la razón profesional para querer estudiar este tema es que actualmente el PBL se está aplicando con muchísima más asiduidad en Puerto Rico. Como maestra me interesa dominar el PBL para poder aplicarlo oportunamente en mi salón de clase cuando me toque impartir clases. Aunque mi certificación docente actual sea en inglés elemental, al aprender a aplicar el PBL en la educación diferenciada también aprenderé a aplicarlo como maestra de inglés, por lo que estudiarlo en mis estudios universitarios graduados será de muchísimo provecho en mi quehacer profesional. Así pues, al estudiar este tema no solo podría hacer una aportación académica relevante en el campo de la educación diferenciada, sino también en el campo de la educación puertorriqueña.

I had no space to mention that I also have dysgraphia and problems with handwritting (I thought about leaving the IQ part out, so I could have space to mention the dysgraphia, but usually persons ask themselves what I mean when I describe myself as “gifted”, so I left the IQ information there because is the shorter way, although not my favorite way, to describe what I mean when I use the word “gifted”) or to make reference of this blog to look for further information about me. It had a small but clearly visible typo too, in the beginning of the second paragraph (I saw that typo when I copy-pasted the essay here).

Once I completed this essay my admission’s form was ready to be sent to the graduate admission’s department. I completed the whole graduate admission’s form a few days ago.

Let’s see what happens with this admission request, and let’s keep growing!