Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 25th - March 27th, blogging as I go...

March 25th

2:00 p.m.

I am getting ready for the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Language in New York City. This year's conference is extra special for me as I have been chosen the NECTFL Teacher of the Year!

I'm thinking of all of the conference sessions I'll attend on proficiency building, assessment, non-verbal communication, multicultural education and standards. My daughter, Melynda and I are leading a discussion on Multicultural Education and Differentiation. We will work with a noted educator, Marjorie Hale Haley. Melynda will speak about the opportunities for personal and cultural transformation offered by study abroad and I will speak to my work on diversity with both teens and adults.

2:30 p.m.

The phone rings and I see that it's a call from Washington D.C. I think that it might relate to my April visit to the White House. Yipee! I pick up the phone and the person on the other end identifies herself as the producer of the Ed Show on MSNBC.

"Would you like to be on the live television show tonight?" I don't really process the question for a minute.

"Let me check my schedule," I say.

For real, I have to do it because I have to see if the cocktail hour at the Marriott Marquis is something that I can be late for. I feel that I don't want to be late when people are expecting me to represent our world language profession. It turns out that I can be late.

"A car will pick you up for the shoot at 6:05," says the producer.

"I'll be there," I say.

6:05 p.m.

I am outside the Marriott in very high heels, but I don't see the Pegasus Cab #157. I'm looking at every yellow cab and stretch limo. Women who are walking easily on what seem like stilts are entering long, shiny cars. Still no taxi. I am supposed to be on the air live at 6:40. There is to be make up before the shoot. Will I have time?


Still no cab. I am desperate. Perhaps, I should run to 50th Street where I see some cabs lining up. Clomp, clomp, clomp in my heels. Nothing. I run back to the red-coated guard with the most kindly face. He tries to find out the studio address to get me a plan "B" so I don't miss the shoot. I call the cab company and finally, car number 157 pulls up.

"No problem," he says, "we'll get there. Just around a few blocks. No, no worries about traffic, we're ok."

Despite what he says, I am feeling rather worried. I am supposed to be on television live in a matter of minutes and I am in a cab.


I exit the cab and go into a doorway I have seen all my life in NYC, NBC. I notice that it says "Rainbow Room." I go into the building and expect that someone will have immediate instructions, but people are meandering around, looking in windows and chatting.

I clomp over to a guard who points to a man who asks for identification and he tells me to look at the screen. I look at the television screen high up on the wall. He chuckles and says,

"No, you have to look at the camera," gesturing to the camera right in front of me.


I go to the 3rd floor and walk into a beauty salon. Two women are sitting and one gets up.

"You need make up."
"Yeah," I say, "I'm uh, am going to be on television, uh, live, "The Ed Show."
"Take the first seat," she says, waving her hand.

Soon, beige make up is homogenizing my face and my eyes are rimmed in mascara. I look like me, but somehow more so.


A young man enters, smiling.

"You must be Maryann?"
"Yes," I say, relieved to hear my name.
"Let's go."

We go into a large room with many monitors on the walls and on tables. A young woman comes over and runs wires down my shirt to hook me up to an earbud. Then, she checks the sound. I look at the clock and see that it's almost 6:40.

"Shouldn't I be on t.v. now?"
"Not yet," she says.

In the middle of the room, there is a high top chair and you will face the camera.

"Where's the man who is interviewing me - Ed?"
"He's in another room. He'll talk to you through the earbud."
"What do I look at?"
"That screen."

I look at a large, black camera lens.

"I look at nothing?"
"Yeah, but viewers will see a split screen."

Gulp. This is challenging. Focus, Maryann.


I am listening to questions about our state budget cuts and I am telling the talk show host why I believe that our Governor should not cut our education programs. I say that this will cut jobs, increase class sizes and cut programs. I say how disappointed I am and what I want for our children.

It's over quickly and I found words. Thank goodness!


Back outside in the same cab. The cabby has a daughter who is a teacher and she is upset about budget cuts. Am I really the New Jersey Teacher of the Year? I tell him I am and he writes my name down.

"I'll tell her I met you," he says.


Upstairs to the Marriott Marquis to the reception where I meet Becky Klein, the NECTFL director and the wonderful conference staff, including Arlene White, the Teacher of the Year Committee Chair. What a room full of wonderful people who are speaking the language of world cultures. It is a comfortable, intellectually invigorating experience. Everyone wants to hear about my television experience as we pop dumplings smothered in soy sauce and scallions into our mouths.

March 26th

7: 30 a.m

I rush to the hotel bedroom window and look down to see the miniature looking people dancing on the red stairs in Times Square. They walk up and down to play. The structure calls out this response and it's fun to see.

8:00 a.m.

I meet my daughter Melynda a to discuss our panel. She is all business and I am looking for a cup of coffee.

"Coffee can wait," she says, "I want to go over our talking points."
"Coffee and talking points?" I say.

She reluctantly agrees, but keeps her focus while we walk to breakfast, getting down a bite to eat as we refresh our plans.

9:00 a.m.

We are downstairs leading a panel discussion. There must be about thirty teachers in our corner sharing their ideas and questions. I love talking with teachers about ways that we can make our classrooms more inclusive and open to diversity. It's flowing.

10:30 a.m.

I run into some old friends and it feels like yesterday since we've spoken. Such is life. I make my way to the exhibition floor, but on the way, I get a call from Telemundo.

"What is your availability?" asks, Liz, the reporter.

I calculate my time on the exhibition floor and make a date to meet her in a couple of hours.

"What should I wear?"
"Whatever is comfortable," she says.

I'm happy to be interviewed in Spanish. I think it's important for the Spanish-speaking population to get more involved in the process of teaching and learning in our state.


I am zipping down the speedy glass elevator in a salmon colored suit. I have the high heels on again, but I doubt that it matters what's on my feet. Why I think I need these shoes is a mystery to me, but somehow it makes me feel like it looks more professional. I know that what will matter most is what comes out of my mouth.

Liz from Telemundo is there with a camera woman. I like them both immediately and feel comfortable. We go up to the 33rd floor to my room. We rearrange the furniture and talk in Spanish about the effects of the budget on Latino families. It's a big crisis and it will affect our children. We must lift our voices to speak out against this. It's an important conversation, but it feels like it's over in five minutes.

Funny how time stretches and shrinks depending on what you are doing.

5:00 - 8:00 p.m.

We are in the 9th floor ballroom where we take pictures and I receive a wonderful award. First a fantastic plaque and then a crystal bowl with a map of the world engraved upon it. I think it's magnificent. The way it feels in my hands is perfect.

In my words of gratitude, I thank the NECTFL staff and I talk about the importance of speaking up for language learning as a 21st Century Skill. I look forward, I tell the audience, to representing NECTFL in the competition for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Teacher of the Year. This vast country is a nexus of so many traditions and languages.

I listen intently to the other award winners. It's fascinating to hear life stories and how we get from here to there. My granddaughter, Olyvia nestles in her mother's lap. I have a half a row of family watching the presentations and feel proud. After it's over, the Italian Embassy invites us to a posh reception. We take our drinks and plates of salami,carrots slices and pasta to sit at round tables covered with white table clothes that look out over Times Square. By now, all of the lights are blinking and swirling against the black sky over Manhattan.

March 27th

9:00 a.m.

Today is my day to learn more about languages. My husband Joe and I eat at "Juniors," a popular restaurant in midtown. The coffee cups are gigantic, like the wide mouthed breakfast cups in Spain. They make me feel once again small in a grown up world.

12:00 noon

Joe and I go to a session on blogging given by a married couple who are language teachers. I enjoy hearing them interact and share student work. They make the topic seem easy to approach and valuable and most of all, they take themselves seriously enough without making the process seem too complex.

1:30 p.m.

Joe and I decide to go to different sessions. I choose one on "Non-verbal communication." After a couple of minutes, I realize that it will be presented entirely in Italian. But after a moment's hesitation, I decide to stay.

I enjoy the cascade of Italian and the gestures of the presenter, somehow more musical when the meaning is not entirely clear. Still, I can understand quite enough and learn that there is much subjectivity in our observations of people. We need to think in new categories - to look for physical tension, interactions, the use of personal space and the way gestures invite or repel others.

2:45 p.m.

Now, I go to a session on Multilingualism and Multiculturalism offered by the Italian Office of Education in New York. The speaker, Mr. Russo, had a lot of very interesting things to say about intercultural projects in Europe, but it is his conclusion which most strikes me.

He says that in Europe, there is a real appreciation for multilingualism since there are so many languages within the European Economic Community and in the USA, there is a focus on multiculturalism because we are a country of immigrants, challenged to create identity out of diversity. "Perhaps," he said, "one can learn from the other." Indeed!

March 28th

The Northeast Conference is over and Joe and I go home to New Jersey. In the past three days, I've learned a great deal from my colleagues about language learning and have been on television twice.

This coming week is a big one as I have commitments for speaking and a special awards ceremony on Tuesday night. Senator Menendez will be presenting me with a "Woman of Distinction" award.

I'll take it in the name of the women who have given me my voice and the courage to use it. For most of history, women have been silenced and now, we are equal partners in the creation of society, culture and the world. Nobody's going to stop us now!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Come into my world in real time

I like kids and I like to help them learn. When I work with them, it's good to get to know them - by name. It's good to know what they like to do and see, to know what their interests are.

Take a minute to think of a big room of sixteen year olds.

When I enter the room, I wear a smile which comes from the inside out. Where did you just come from? What do you hope I can teach you today? What part of you is rested enough to dig in and work. Oh no! You look tired! Up late on the internet? No, a test? Hey, why are you limping? A tackle at the football game? Ouch. Hey, where's your partner? She's got the flu? We'll have to rework the assignment.

We journal while listening to music. People look up and glance out the window, especially if the gym class is walking by. Someone waves from the outside in. I chuckle. How can I ignore that funny hat? Am I supposed to ignore it? I can't and the kids know it. They watch me start to giggle. OK, back to work.

The room has twenty eight desks in a language class. Everyone cooperates so we do learn. I want you to imagine, though, how much time you get with me, the teacher, in fifty two minutes, if there are 28 students. Not much. I do a lot of group work so that people are connecting with each other. There's a good vibe.

This world is alive and the students are real. My life as a teacher is also real, as real as a person's who sits at a desk or walks into a board room. Each new person counts and they bring their story, their learning, their relationships into this space. Maybe I sound a little edgy right now, but I feel that the people outside the classroom need to know of these communities we call classes. They make a difference and they take time and care to create.

Put five more kids in my room and the energy changes. We wouldn't be able to move around to do skits or these conversation circles. Man, these kids have longer and longer legs as they grow up! Desks are small and seem to trap them. You have to get them up and moving for them to feel comfortable. I'm concerned that this will be harder if class sizes increase. With the new state cuts we are getting, I don't see any way around it.

How will we be able to maintain this atmosphere? Our kid don't just sit neatly in rows and drink in information. They are participants in a student-centered room. Everything we hear about being a 21st Century learner tells us that this is what needs to be happening and by golly, we're doing it! How long will we be able to keep moving forward with the devastating shortages that are befalling us?

We'll keep working, but I- for real - am worried.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Words delivered to the NJEA Delegate Assembly, 3/20

Here I am with Wendall Steinhaur, the VP of the NJEA and my new, Teacher of the Year Ring!

Here I am speaking to the delegates!

Good morning! It is my honor to be here today with our NJEA delegates. I want to recognize my husband Joe, daughter Melynda and granddaughter, Olyvia who are here cheering me on today! I’m delighted to be receiving my Teacher of the Year ring, which will serve to commemorate this amazing time of my life.

It will also remind me of my connection to you, to the NJEA and of all you mean to me. I will wear it and feel lucky enough to be a teacher, to live a life in service to the young and to share their dreams and energy.

We all know that we are here because someone believed in us. Someone saw, in rough form, the committed adults we have become. At least one person took it upon him or herself to share with us a life story or the hard-won lessons of education. Someone saw a light in our eyes. Someone believed that we could become “the change we want to see.”

On March 13th, our President, Barack Obama, said moving and important words about our profession. He proclaimed our nation’s need to prepare, support and encourage teachers to stay in the field and he committed his administration to “treat the people who educate children like the professionals they are.” “Our future,” he said, “is determined each and every day when children enter the classroom, ready to learn, brimming with promise.”

These are vital words to remember when we teach and when we fight for our dignity, professional worth and continued advancement.

All of this will help us create a path towards promise for the next generation because how we are treated as teaching professionals has everything to do with the children. We are men and women raising families, going to graduate school, people who are trying to create a decent middle class life – the life we have worked for in the real world of our classrooms, with the real children we care about.

Like all New Jersians, we need a secure professional future – the one we were promised by our government, a future we trusted, a promise we believed in. We have made sacrifices to contribute to our pensions and have reworked our health benefits because, contrary to the hostile public debate right now, we do care - we care very much indeed.

So today, as I stand before you as your representative, I want to say that I am honored to know you. I carry your hard work and message out to the world and I have chosen to stand up for you, during these hard times. It’s not easy speaking truth to power. It’s not easy to stand up for the rights our forbearers have won to transform this profession into what it is today.

I grew up with the stories of my grandfather and his brothers who were Irish immigrants and wire lathers, who – I am told – marched and shouted till they were hoarse, on the streets of New York, for their union rights. I remember and appreciate the passage and sacrifices that these immigrant ancestors made so that I could be educated, so that I could hold my head up high and unbowed.

In a similar way, I know that the privileges I enjoy today as a teacher exist through the enormous efforts of the teacher leaders whose sweat and tears have made it so.

Thank you to the NJEA delegates, to the executive board and the whole NJEA team, whom I have gotten to know this year. I want too thank, my husband, Joe, who always supports me at every step of this journey. He says that he is “the man behind the woman,” but without his encouragement, I would not stand as tall, as fearless and as tough.

I am humbled, grateful and happy to be your representative. I only hope to honor your service and to shine a light, with my award, on teacher leadership all throughout our fine state of New Jersey.
Thank you!

Monday, March 15, 2010


My Dad liked to go grocery shopping with me.

He moved in with Joe, me and the kids after my mother died and he became part of our life. Dad lived in a downstairs apartment and kept his own kitchen, but we'd spend hours together. Our children, Joe and Melynda, loved eating two dinners and cuddling after school on his big belly in front of an old movie.

But Dad had a thing for food and for shopping. He loved Packard's Farmer's Market, where you could shop for fresh fruit and vegetables and always get a good bag of Idaho potatoes for a buck.

Bargains, the unruly ethnic mix, the prices, the beauty of the vegetables. Dad couldn't get enough of Packards.

"Can you believe how beautiful the string beans are? Can you imagine how delicious they will be? It's amazing!" He was a stroke victim, so his periferal vision was bad. He would meander through the market crowds, searching for dewey bunches of lettuce, carrots with leafy tops and his bargain potatoes.

Spring is a busy time for me so I decided on a new plan. Instead of bringing Dad with me to shop, I would just buy his usual order in no time flat. This way, I could fit more into my day and maybe have a little time for myself.

I started to do this without Dad's approval. For a few weeks, I would drive by the market on the way home from work, run around the aisles to gather his favorite fruits and vegetables, gather up the bags and then go home to spill the groceries unceremoniously on to his mahogany table. I didn't dare meet his eyes.

"Look Dad, I got your stuff. What a bargain!" He stared at me, gave me a weak smile and dutifully put the groceries I'd purchased away, one by one.

A few days after one of these grocery dumps, Dad padded up the stairs to my kitchen while I was stirring spaghetti sauce and helping little Joe with spelling words.


"Yes, Dad?"

.....He seemed to hesitate, but eventually said: "I really would like to do my own shopping! I want to do it with you! I like finding my own fruit and vegetables...." I fumbled with the pot, licking some sauce off my finger, feeling a knot in my stomach.

"Dad, you know," I said, "I'm very busy. Sometimes it's easier - you know - to just run in." I stirred the pot a minute. "You know, Dad, you take a long time and I have a lot to do." The words just tumbled out of my mouth and once said, they burned my lips. I saw Dad's eyes lower and his voice get husky.

"But, I like to shop with you," he said, "be with you, Maryann, look at the vegetables." Dad's eyes seemed to water.

"Oh me too, Dad!" I said . "I really love to shop with you. So, Do you want to go tomorrow? You know me, I'm just a busy mom. I'm sure you were like me when you were raising us. How about tomorrow morning? It's Saturday and I have time to spend."

Dad looked me deep in the eyes, "What time, honey?"

I looked up from the spaghetti pot. "Oh, let's say ten? Sound good?"

Dad nodded, pressed his lips together and slowly walked back down the stairs to his apartment, holding onto the bannister to steady his walk. I looked out the window to see the sun slipping down into the horizon.

The next morning I sprang out of bed to go to the gym.The day was bright and the sky a vivid blue. I could go to the gym to work out a bit before coming home and doing some lesson plans, maybe help Melynda with her Social Studies project or even check out the movies so my husband and I could catch a good one tonight. The gym would be a nice break for me to start the day. I could just slip out. I loved the fluffy towels they give you and the smell of almond hand lotion. But like a stab, I remembered my promise to Dad. With any luck, he wouldn't remember.

Guilt tugged at me so I ran down to my Dad's apartment to make sure.

"Did you still want to shop Dad?"

"I'm all ready, sweetheart." Dad peeked his head out from his bedroom, his blue eyes sparkling, and I could see that he was fully dressed, wearing a coat and his Irish tweed hat. "Can't wait," he said, with a smile that lit up his face.

I gulped, threw on my jeans and jacket and ran a comb through my hair. We got in the car and headed off towards Hackensack, NJ to the farmer's market. The closer we got, the more chipper Dad became. Why was he so excited about going shopping? I ran through the list of all of the other things that I could be doing instead of spending two hours on something I could do alone in five minutes.

We got out of the car and flung open the doors to the market, a giant reconverted department store used to house stalls of vegetables, fruits, meats and fish. Dad headed off, with a trot, to the Romaine, the parsley, the plums, the boxes of strawberries, the bunches of bananas. The sounds of Spanish, Chinese, Hindi and English filled the air as people in turbans and shawls poked vegetables and smelled oranges.

I felt a little dizzy and noticed that something was happening. My "to do" list was slipping away as I watched Dad moving down the aisles with confidence and interest. He had owned his own restaurant for thirty years so he knew this world. It's his world and suddenly, the door has opened to let me in and I am remembering who he is to me. He is my Dad and I am following him, letting him teach me like I used to. I'm listening.

I smell the lingering earth still hanging on the roots of the vegetables. I let myself be pushed back and forth by people. The lemon scent reaches me, the fullness of the peaches. I touch the parsley and it tickles.

Dad sees me smiling and he flashes me a grin. We are together.

I am five years old and I am happy to be with him. He is the world and this is our playground. I run to him.

"Dad, Did you SEE the carrots? Aren't they beautiful?"

He dashes over to me with a gorgeous melon. "This is perfect," Dad says.

He's right, it is. It's perfect. The rough exterior and the soft pulpy fruit waiting as a surprise in the middle.

The next morning, my Dad died.

Before I'd left the house that morning, I'd shouted down to him.

"Dad, did you see the DAY outside? It's great. Get out and have a walk!"

He took my advice and walked to church and died on Palm Sunday, as the hymns surrounded him and the green palm leaves felt fresh in his pocket. He closed his eyes and went to sleep. The woman next to him tapped his shoulder when he didn't rise. Sweetly and gently, he passed. Amen. Rest in peace.

Now, I know about vegetables. Taste their flavor. Smell the plums. Listen like a gift to the sounds of many lands. Get joy out of the symetry of a head of cabbage, the blush of an apple. Be where you are.

Henry J. Woods b. 2/23/1912- d. 4/5/1998

"Vegetables" was written in 2000 and revised for this blog. I think about my Dad all the time, but especially around St. Patrick's Day, a holiday he loved. Though my children are grown, the message of that day we shared in the market is one I need to remember every day. A parent's advice is like a time capsule that activates when life gives you challenges or experiences and then suddenly, you remember words said long ago or experiences that changed your life.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What we give each other

When we teach, we find our voice with our students. Stories are woven into our lessons. Somebody laughs. Another person shares a perspective, a drawing, a thought. We grow together as a community as we live in four cinder block walls amid the art we create. That beautiful poster from last year has to stay up. We know the smile of the Flamenco dancer as she twirls in infinite space. The basket of markers on top of the filing cabinet is a comfort to us, bright colors that express our feelings across the page.

As we live together in this classroom, we create the courage to speak. A student says: "I don't think that test was fair." We say, "Why not?" and listen. We learn something more about our students. They learn that we have ears to hear. Trust blooms and even the shy student, who digs little furrows with a pen in her black and white composition notebook, is with us. Her eyes are connected, but soon the words will flow, one at a time until she can speak her mind. If you build it, they will come.

But what happens next is a surprise. These connections we have made with the students have given us strength. Energy moves around the room and intensifies the power of each person. We take their stories home with us when the day ends. We hope that they do well in the game, the piano recital, at their older sister's wedding. We want to see pictures of how the tux ended up fitting or how the gown, dripping with lace and tiny beads, looked at the prom.

When we teach, we find our hearts growing bigger. The profession heals because it teaches you to care deeply and then let go, hope for the best, remember.

Years ago I read Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. I remember the ferry boat driver whose life was spent going back and forth as he got older and older. As a young woman, I thought, "What's the point?" but now I know. That ferry boat driver is a part of the lives of all he touches and they are part of him. He must accept that all things must pass because his life is lived on the rushing water.

On graduation day, every year, I think of that guy. The empty hallway is my river. I go back to my classroom and put a few things away, smiling at a hand made card someone has left on my desk. It is hastily done in a red crayon and has a drawn heart with my teaching name, "Maestra." I feel a tug. "Let go," I say, "we are at the shore."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Celebration of Teaching and Learning

Enter into the Hilton, New York and climb up the escalators. All around you are teachers with canvas bags rushing towards the doors of the Grand Ballroom.

They want to see Arne Duncan and Richard Riley talk about education today. The elder statesman, Riley, is wise and full of information. Mr. Duncan looks like an aging boy - athletic, vibrant, confident and full of innovative ideas.

As far as Arne Duncan's words - there was a lot I agreed with: the need for support for teacher leadership with the creation of different pathways for master teachers to share their knowledge and experience with new teachers and colleagues. I believe that we must help all children succeed - it's a national emergency when so many young people continue to slip through the cracks! I also was happy that Mr. Duncan reported that, unlike "No Child Left Behind," the newly revised Education and Secondary School Act (ESEA) offers a vision for the measurement of a student's growth, rather than evaluation through a single high stakes assessment that excludes many students.

Secretary Duncan talked about a student entering fifth grade, with a first grade reading level and reaching the third grade level by the end of the school year. "That's success," said the Secretary. We all enjoyed hearing that. Troubling, though, is how difficult it is to measure this type of growth.

Though it was exciting to see our Secretary of Education in person, I was left with the troubling feeling that we have much to resolve. Rhode Island, for example, is currently dealing with a school closure which is following the "turnaround strategies" that are being advocated. We have all heard of hard-working teachers in that school dealing with limited resources and a challenged student population. The result of their hard work is a slap in the face instead of much needed resources and help.

The next day, I saw Queen Latifa masterfully moderate a youth dialog with high school students. The students spoke on issues that were important to them - the impact of the community on their lives, aspects of a quality teacher, and what excites or bores them about learning.

The most compelling moment was at the end of the discussion when one student panelist, with his peppy little bow tie and serious glasses, was asked to give advice to the teachers in the audience.

"You should remember," he said, with the glittering eyes of an old soul, "that what you do with your students is literally a matter of life and death. I'm serious, life and death."

Perhaps before we close a school we might talk to some of the young people who attend these institutions, with their parents and with the teachers who work every day to try to lift their students out of disadvantaged situations. Perhaps we might try to innovate in place, to create energy in exhausted institutions by infusing them with people and programs - fresh legs to inspire and create movement around institutional and student growth. Maybe we should start to trust communities to recreate themselves, using the foundations of the old, to build upon.

Antonio Machado, a Spanish poet, talked about a dying Oak tree in his classic poem, "To an old Oak Tree." He talked about the fading Oak and its inner decay, the sad and softened bark falling to the earth. Machado ends his poem by saying, that despite the vision of destruction that the Oak has become, "a few green leaves were sprouting."

Maybe that would happen to our dying schools if we nourished them and gave them the support that they needed to succeed.

The Record & FDU's 21st Century Skill Event

Teaneck, March 5th, 2010

What kinds of skills do we need for the 21st Century? How does this fit into what we teach out children? How will this change schools and teaching and learning?

On Friday, I opened the 21st Century Skill Conference at Fairleigh Dickenson University with a brief talk. I related the experience of living in Spain with the kind of "out of the box" experience one needs to engage in to think creatively and playfully in order to engage in this new thinking. My experience taught me to use humor, creativity and connection to solve the real-life problem of living in a new culture and learning a language.

I shared my stories and listened to others. I enjoyed hearing from the very talented panelists who ranged from a middle school principal to a testing researcher at Educational Testing Service. Also interesting were the contributions of the sustainability people who learn to relate to how we make and use things in our world and how this affects our lives.

"Would you pay more for a car which is more expensive, but energy efficient if it helps a polar bear?"

Many people, including me said, "yes."

"Would you pay more for a car which is more expensive, but energy efficient for a beetle?"

Most people, including me laughed and said, "no."

"Well," continued the knowledgeable speaker, "the polar bear is helping us with breaking research on Diabetes and that beetle, that most of you don't care about, may help us understand how to cure MERCER which is killing the equivalent of a plane load of people a month.

"Oh," said the middle school principal next to me, "maybe I want to change my vote and vote for the beetle!"

Talking about 21st Century Skills is not just talking about technology. It's about learning new ways to think, to collaborate and to network using technology to put many minds on the issues of our day.

There is a whole lot to think about and that seems to be the point.

Abesgami High School World Language Induction

On Thursday, March 4th, I travelled down to Galloway Twsp to speak at the World Language Honor Society Induction. There were 42 students inducted into the French and Spanish Honor Society in a wonderful ceremony celebrating their success. The student's faces were glowing with pride and their parents seemed happy to take a couple of hours to rejoice in how well their children were turning out.

I spoke to the group of students and parents about my life and experiences in Spain. One of the things that came up was the fact that I never would have imagined being a speaker at an Honor Society far away when I was their age. I was once shy and still am -in pockets - and this sort of thing just didn't seem possible.

Equally impossible was the thought of one day traveling to a foreign country. For me, these worlds were so distant and so magical that I never believed that I could go to experience these cultures.

To conclude, I asked everyone to do something that I have done all my life: go home and write down a dream that seems attainable and put it in an envelope. On the outside of the envelope, write down a date which is an appointment with yourself. I told them that I believed that just writing down your dream helps you to speak this to yourself and that one day, you will achieve it.

After the talk, a mom came to me with her daughter. "I feel that tonight has changed my daughter's life," she said. "I am going right home and I am going to give her an envelope and she is going to do it - she'll put her dream in the envelope! I feel so inspired."

This alone made the three hour trip down to Galloway Twsp well worth the effort. I popped a Ritz cracker into my mouth and chewed it as I walked out the door to get into my car. A large granite sculpture cast a shadow on the shiny lobby floor: I guess it is just somebody's dream, leaving its mark to this day.