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!

A Better World…

Today I am going to write about something that will deeply influence my teaching style as teacher and public server: human rights. First I am going to write about the experience of being completely conscious while my human rights are fragrantly violated, giving concrete examples of those violations. Then I will write about how I am enduring it and how I am able to stand a situation like this one. Finally, I will write about how it will influence my teaching style from now on.

Through these last weeks I has discovered many things that I was unaware of. I discovered many of them suddenly, others through contemplation in prayer. I can’t tell them all in a single text, but one of the discoveries I have made is that my human rights had been, and are being, fragrantly violated. I am being subject of cruel treatment. I am being subject of torture. I am being subject of ideological persecution. These are not easy affirmations to make, especially when they involve collaboration of your own “family”, but reality must be faced.

Let’s begin with the beginning. What is a human right? A human right is “a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person.” In words of United Nations, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has 30 articles.

In my own words, human rights are rights that belong to all persons unconditionally. They are not negotiable. They are not respected only in those people who believe what you believe or only in those people who stand your own ideology. Governments and public servers are entitled to guarantee that these rights are respected always.

Which violations of human rights I have endured? I will write examples.

Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person: I have been made believe that my live is in danger many times, through many different methods, and that is both against the security of person and against the right to life. These methods require coordination, resources and collaboration of many people, I am not talking about an isolated initiative. I am being exposed to certain set of sounds or images in wherever place I go, including “medical appointments” (I wouldn’t call them exactly “medical appointments” but torture, but I will talk about that later…), in order to try to control my freedom of movement and to make me believe that I have a psychiatric disorder. I have been exposed to sounds to interrupt my sleep many, many, many times, and that is against the right to life.

Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile: I still remember one of the times I was forced by the police to undergo psychiatric treatment. He did not allow me 30 minutes to finish what I was doing and gather all my things, telling me that “he did not had the time to wait, he needed to go and help more people.” Obviously, he was playing with my Twitter username, “helping to grow” (that has happened many, many, many times, specially among public servers and doctors who insist me when they are forcing me to undergo psychiatric treatment that “they only want to help me”).

I have been subject of arbitrary detention, using judicial orders that are based in manipulations of reality, by police at least three times. Police officers went inside my room, forced me to get out when I was actually being abused mentally and emotionally and I was not able to recognize it, and made me choose between jail or psychiatric treatment.

Article 10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him: When a tribunal insists in forcing you to seek psychiatric treatment (I have lost the count of how many times I have been hospitalized by force by the tribunal of Toa Alta, but they are around 5, and still counting…) when the real problem is the manipulation of reality and the abuse of your parents, evidently the tribunal is not impartial but part of the ideological persecution. This is especially true when your parents use the tribunal orders to try to medicate you by force, and when you are not able to defend yourself because the Government doesn’t provide you a free layer to defend yourself and you don’t have the money to hire one.

Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks: All that I am living began with the interference with my privacy. Those who are around me were accessing my thoughts and my writings through my computers and devices for years without I being able to notice. When I finally was able to notice it, I was made believe that I had a psychiatric disorder in order to not daring to denounce it publicly for fear of a forced hospitalization or to not being believed by the competent authorities. Last time I went to seek help, a few week ago to the police in Miami, I was told that I only needed to “take my meds”. I never received help of any Government authority in order to stop this interference with my privacy. My correspondence has been opened without my consent many, many, many times, and I have missed many letters too.

Article 17. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property: I have missed the count of how many things I have lost in my “own room”. My security card is not where I left it, my passport card is not where I left it, my Puerto Rican and USA flags disappeared… Through the years I have lost many, many, many things believing that the problem was me. Now I finally realize that the problem was not me in most of the cases.

Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance: Besides article 5, this is the article that has been violated most deeply. Everything that has been done, all the torture, all the privacy interferences, all the manipulations of reality, even the false psychiatric diagnosis (there was an image of the Santiago’s Way, the place where I discovered my vocation, in the promotion of the place where my parents took me for treatment) has been done in order to undermine the truth of what I have contemplated in prayer and to manipulate what I contemplate in prayer or how I live my faith. This has been truly savage. I have never understood such obsessions in manipulating the prayers of someone else or in denying the faith practices of someone. The violations to this human right has been the core of all the human rights violations that I have endured and am enduring right now.

Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers: When you are being threatened with a forced psychiatric hospitalization by many people, including doctors, if you say what you believe is the truth, evidently your freedom of expression is being violated. Also, the forced medications make me harder to write, so they also affect the freedom of expression.

Article 25. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control: Right now I had not been given money for food, medicines or anything else in two weeks. Why? I was threatened to not being given money for food, being left without car to going to mass, being left without internet to communicate… if I did not follow a psychiatric treatment. The psychiatric treatment is being forced in order to cover the truth about the violations of human rights and the abuse that is happening, and in order to avoid me to express myself freely.

Article 27. (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author:  the ideological persecution has been of such magnitude that interferes with my right of freely participate in the cultural life that surrounds me. Manipulations of reality are constantly being created by many means. I will give an example of this. My parents leave the papers of my forced hospitalization and my medical plan card besides something with a Puerto Rican flag. Then, when I go to the medical office to the forced appointment, I find that a Puerto Rican flag is placed in the desk of the secretary that receives me to the office, that belongs to a government agency. Then you are being told in that office that you need to go to the office of Medicare in Toa Alta to seek a paper, and when you go there a person with a Puerto Rican flag is “casually” walking by when you arrive to office to seek the needed paper.

The only way to avoid that kind of manipulations of reality is avoiding cultural life until everything is publicly known and you can enjoy a home free of reality manipulations that manipulate your social and cultural life.

Also, everything has been done in order to avoid me to complete my painting, Iesu Amor, and the written works related to Jesus Charity.

Article 28. Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized: As I already wrote, the ideological persecution and the violations of human rights that I have endured has not been something of one person, or two, or three. Hundreds of persons are needed to do something like this. This has not happened only in Puerto Rico: it happened in Miami and even in the cruise ship I was forced to go. A corruption of this magnitude needs some sort of political support. The democratic order is being substituted by an ideological order, and that can’t be allowed to happen. Using fear to try to manipulate people and ideas is being a terrorist, and that can’t be allowed anywhere, especially in USA, the land of the free. It is my duty as citizen to denounce what I have endured in order to avoid anyone else to endure the same violations of human rights that I have endured for my faith.

You may realize that I skipped some articles of the Declaration of Human Rights. I skipped one in purpose: the article 5. The article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Now I realize that I have endured and am enduring torture. I will explain how.

First of all, what is torture? United Nations Convention Against Torture, in its article 1.1, defines “torture” as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

Manipulating reality in such way that you believe that you have a psychiatric disorder becomes torture when Government agencies complicitly help with the scheme. You just don’t create a psychiatric disorder manipulating the reality at home and in the social environments, although that already requires a lot of coordination and resources. Besides manipulating reality, you need a psychiatric medicine faculty that complies and participates in the manipulation of reality in order to diagnose the disorder and “certify” it officially. You need a tribunal that complies and participates in the manipulation of reality in order to force you to seek treatment for that disorder even when you know that everything has been made up and that you don’t need medications that cause you secondary effects that affect your written expression. You need a public agency that has doctors and personal complicit with the manipulation or reality… Why this is torture? Because it had been made with cooperation of public servers, a public university and public authorities. You are constantly treated as a mental patient and as a disabled in such way that, if you had not a clear vision of who you are and who you are called to be, you would lose your whole personality and your identity in the process. Yes, all this is a process of dehumanization, I am well aware of it.

Now, how I have endured everything? How I am enduring all this and still remain to be myself without fears? The answer is simple: God rescued me by making me able to contemplate Jesus Charity, the contemplation of His Love incarnated in Jesus that I painted in the painting Iesu Amor. I have truly discovered that Love is not an ideology: God is Love, and that truth has defined me in such way that no dehumanization process could harm me. I am a daughter of God, a beloved princess of Heaven, a human being in the process of becoming a work of Love. Through integraction I have deepened the nature of personal formation in ways that overcome my own intellectual capacity. When I developed integraction I was not aware of what was happening around me. It was God telling me: “this is the path you must follow in order to not dehumanize yourself, in order to become who you are called to be.” God has not left me alone. The presence of His Love has saved me from hate, cruelty and dehumanization. He is giving me the gift of forgiving everything and beginning a new life, leaving my sinful past behind.

I am so grateful of what I had been given the gift of share to the whole humanity (believe me, this will be publicly known, I contemplate it clearly…) that I would endure everything again just for the opportunity of telling the whole world: truly, God is Love, God saves, God loves you. I have no idea of why all this has been allowed by public agencies and authorities, but I am sure that everything is part of God’s will and that I am safe in His hands. Just for writing this blog post, I am exposed to being hospitalized by force again. I don’t care. I can’t avoid to share with the whole world the truth: God has saved me, God has forgiven me, and can forgive you too. He is waiting you eagerly with His tenderness to help you to grow and become the best person you can be. I am not denying the reality that surrounds me: my human rights are being violated and I am being tortured… but God’s Love is protecting me from all harm and all dehumanization. God is honoring my humanity in ways that I can only be grateful, because what I have contemplated and what I am contemplating can only be a grace. The reality of God’s Love embraces everything and heals everything, including violations of human rights and torture. The charity of Jesus makes all things anew and creates true peace. Evil never has the last word. God’s Love has it. Although I have written today about all the violation of human rights I have endured, it is also true (I contemplate it…) that I have encountered many angels in my way to whom I also owe my life, and to them I will be forever grateful.

How all this influences my teaching style? I have learned that besides teaching my students to radiate Love, teaching about human rights is necessary in order to help them to achieve the best personal formation possible. Human rights must be integrated in the curriculum in order to create better persons, better citizens and a better society… and eventually, a better world. Yes, a better world. We can’t conform with mediocrity and corruption. We need to aspire to a better world. That is what Jesus call us to do when He calls us to radiate His Love unconditionally and what we are called to do as public servers. We need to teach our students how to create a better nation, a better humanity, and I have learned that human rights are an essential part of that lesson.

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

WYD

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.

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!

Reasonable Accommodation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carta Acomodo Razonable

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

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

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

Transcripción de Créditos 1 (1)

Transcript 2 (1)

Transcript 3 (2)

Transcript 4 (1).jpg

Transcript 5 (2).jpg

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

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

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

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

Let’s keep growing!

 

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!