Skyping Moose

It’s not the first time Moose, our three year-old Boxer, has gazed into the computer looking for me! Today I board a flight to Manilla, stay about six hours, and then fly on to Nagoya, Japan, Detroit, and Denver, taking four flights and covering about 10,000 miles in 21 hours on the plane.

Words cannot express how meaningful this trip has been and how special LCC and my new friends have become to me. I really am trying to soak up every moment and lock it within. I’m not exactly sure what our collaborations will entail in the future, but I look forward to continuing this journey together as colleagues and friends. This is a beginning, not an end! I will blog more soon, but right now I will focus my energies on the time I have with everyone today and getting HOME safely to my FAMILY.

Alas! The Ruins

Today the music and dance students from the college hosted a cultural experience involving native songs (including Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors”) and dance. It was wonderful and I appreciate all the work they do to hone their artistic talents, especially in an age dominated by video games and media sources! They’re a talented group and seem to “gel” together easily.

Having been spoiled by rain last week, we finally made a trip to The Ruins, a historical site deemed one of the “Top 12 Ruins in the World.” I’m sure I don’t have all the details correct, but here’s my understanding (many thanks to Roger, the guide who took several pictures and shared these details with Randdie and I): The house was built by the Lacson family in about 1920. They lived there for 20 years, until the Japanese invaded the Philippines during WWII. American intelligence officers advised Philippine guerrilla fighters to burn all sites the Japanese would be interested in occupying as a headquarters. The Lacson family sacrificed their home and moved into the home of one of their daughters in Bacolod so the troops could douse the home with gasoline and oil and light it afire. It took three days for the home to burn, and all that is left is the concrete structure. Having homes like this available to Japanese troops could have offered Japan a stronghold in the Philippines.

The site remained in ownership of Lacson’s descendants, but stood abandoned for about 67 years, when, in 1998, the great-great-grandson of the original owner decided to fulfill his life’s dream and restore the site as a historical attraction. He restored the grounds and has added a small cafe, so it continues to grow as a tourist destination and is a popular site for weddings, proposals, etc. It is absolutely beautiful and best seen late in the day and at sunset. It’s a must-see treasure hidden in Bacolod! What haunts me still is the lighting and the smell of the charrred building that hangs in the humid air.

Formative Assessment Presentation

Today La Consolacion College hosted a workshop on “The Art & Science of Teaching” and “Best Practices in Assessment” to local teachers, administrators and education students. Here’s a copy of my Prezi presentation on Formative Assessment:

If you don’t like the panning effects, this link will show content in simple back/forward steps:

Both presentations focused on current research in the United States related to best practices. It is my hope that individual teachers and departments will use today’s workshop as a springboard for conversations that will initiate changes in the classroom. If you’d like a copy of any of the PowerPoint slides, please let me know and I will email them to you in .ppt or .pdf format!

This day marked the last of our formal presentations and teaching efforts. I am honored to be a part of the experience and enjoyed meeting so many people from neighboring schools in the community, as well as teachers and future educators from LCC. Many thanks to Joji and Carmen from the Research Department! They hosted an authentic Filipino lunch and some sweet treats at the end of the day. I had a wonderful time with Manuel, Nanette and Marge at the spa! The spa experience is much more common here and I marvel at the ease in which everyone seems to recognize the need taking time to “care for your person.” When you have stress, you go to the spa for a body or foot massage, or you have coffee with a sweet treat. My friends treated us to dinner at “21,” a very nice restaurant on Lacson St. and I took my first ride in a Jeepney. It was a wonderful day!

Parent Involvement

Just a few pictures today, as I’m finalizing my presentation for tomorrow afternoon regarding formative assessment. Today involved a cultural exchange with students and a tour of the Hospitality and Tourism Management division of the college, followed by three students showcasing some high-flying bar tending skills. They hope to open and manage their own bar/restaurant someday, and I wish them all the best!

This evening we met with eight members of the Parent Council, which is similar to that of our PTA groups. We found that we share many of the same dilemmas, and again the conversation surrounding the quality of education and the greatest chance for students to be successful came back to the quality of life at home and the consistent involvement of parents. Like many teachers in the U.S., they battle “absentee” parents, or a lack of involvement in school activities or even in parent-teacher conferences. There’s no replacement for active parenting, but all of us agreed that we sometimes find ourselves playing that role for our students. The school nurse has been with the school about 20 years, and I know she has touched the lives of many and shown them great compassion. Teaching is exhausting and rewarding work, and we step in for kids when they need us. Below is a graphic that is posted near my desk that reminds me to be patient and to give. The kids, I hope, will remember that support and pass it along to others someday.


Sunshine, You are my Sunshines

With some encouragement from my husband and a bottle of San Mig (the local brew), I found the courage to cure my curiosity and venture out on my own. I needed a little alone time to soak up the striking differences and reconcile the longing I have for my family, especially on a weekend. It’s much easier for all of us to be preoccupied at work!

I watched children play on the beach and families relaxing at the local city center. I finally saw babies and toddlers walking with their mothers. This blog post is a shout out to my family in Colorado, so that you will know my heart is with you as you sleep (soundly, I pray). I type this so you will see it when you wake and we will connect again from afar.

I took a taxi to Palmas del Mar, a resort south/southwest down the coast from my hotel. It lies within a gated community where, according to my cab driver, most of the owners are foreigners. The neighborhood paints a striking contrast to the abject poverty just outside its gated entrance. I enjoyed a “rum and soda,” made with the local rum, Tanduay and read for a while on my Kindle. The word Tanduay originated from the word tanguay, an old Tagalog term for “isthmus” or “peninsula.” It also means “low-lying land” because the place from which it originated was frequently flooded during the rainy season. In the Cebuano and Visayan dialect, tanguay meant “a place where tuba, a local coconut-based liquor, is bought and sold.” There’s a distillery here in Bacolod and the rum is made from the local sugar cane. I couldn’t actually get to the water, however, from this locale, so the hotel staff directed me to Punta-taytay, a barangay (village or district) further southwest on the road to Bago City, yet still considered part of the south end of Bacolod.

My new cab driver, Mr. Ortiz, was an incredible trip advisor and took me to the Villavosa Beach Resort near Bacolod City College. He waited while I explored and stopped for me to take pictures several times along the way back to the hotel. A father of four sons, we had much in common. He expressed concern that he couldn’t take any classes because he was always driving in his taxi, but that he’s always done the best he could with his English so his family could have more opportunities. He said “finances” is the biggest problem plaguing the Philippines, and that he just does the best he can every day. He, by the way, has a wonderful command of English and deserves so much more credit! Enjoy the photos, my Sunshines!

Golden Nuggets

This morning approximately 80 young writers chose to attend a creative writing workshop for three hours. I thoroughly enjoyed working with these students and hope they feel inspired to continue to be open to creative thinking and writing in their Writer’s Notebook. American and Filipino students share many common threads, as evidenced in their writing today.

We focused for a time on “mining for gold,” or looking for the best in everything at first glance. When it comes to writing, our left brain must not be allowed to evaluate too critically or too quickly. I am reminded that this applies to life just as in our writing – it’s best to play “the angel’s advocate” and look for everything that is good first, so we can then see the possibilities in all that our lives may become.

Letters Have Immense Power

I taught a 90-minute class of college students from the fine arts/architecture departments this afternoon. We practiced strategies for making an inference and learned how to annotate text. The two non-fiction articles we annotated focused on people who were illiterate at the age of 21 – one man from the U.S. and a woman from Nepal. Both had life circumstances which presented an epiphany – they needed to learn to read and write. Both authors succeeded in doing so and gained the skills necessary to turn their lives in a new direction and bring positive change to their communities as a result of being literate. Literacy is power. Read every day – enough said!

Who are your heroes?

Today’s agenda included a visit to two public schools, Sum-ag Elementary and Mariano G. Medalla Integrated School. At Sum-Ag, we received an incredible welcome and celebrated a young swimmer’s achievement of earning six medals at the Philippine National Games. We met extensively with both principals, each noted for his progressive thinking as an instructional leader, and toured several classrooms. Both schools battle extreme overcrowding and a shortage of resources that many teachers in the U.S. cannot fathom.

I also had the opportunity to team-teach a portion of the epic poem, “Beowulf” with Janrae Sanicas, followed by an observation of another teaching team and an excellent debriefing session among the four of us. This session reinforced many of my beliefs about teaching, particularly that of the importance to know your students well as people first, to know their range of skills at that time, and to adjust accordingly while working in the classroom. Good teaching is creative and fluid, and I am seeing many examples of this at LCC-Bacolod.

Genevieve Geriane began her lesson today by giving students time to reflect as she sang Mariah Carey’s song, “A Hero Lies in You” while moving among the students. She has a beautiful voice and I should note that song is a normal component of activities here, whereas students in the U.S. would find it odd for a teacher to sing, even if they sounded good! Janrae asked her students, “Who are your heroes?” Their answers were swift and touching: “Jose Rizal, my parents, my teachers.” We may think that as adults our actions don’t matter to many young people, all caught up in a teen-dream world of friends, texting and music, but they do. We do matter, and kids are watching us – not just our kids, but all kids.

Even more importantly, they’re looking for the encouragement, faith, and opportunities needed to find the hero inside of themselves. Who will write the books we read in college classes 100 years from now? Who will plan, write and implement intervention programs and action research projects to improve schools a generation from now? Who will show us that good triumphs over evil? Who will maintain a passion for integrity and pass it on to others?

I continue to see students consistently work, play and support each others’ learning without complaint, always offering a friendly smile and a “Good Morning, M’am.” One student, Angeline, summed it up best today after conquering the “Beowulf” text, proclaiming, “Being a great warrior comes from within.” Being a hero comes from within, and I am humbled to see so many children putting forth the the fight for the future.

Back to School Already . . . and Lovin’ It!

Today was my first day at La Consolacion College in Bacolod. The warm welcome we received began with prayers, raising the Philippine flag and a talented vocal student, Christine, singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

After a tour of the building with the Principal, Manuel Delumpa, we engaged in a cultural exchange with students 14-16 years old. They asked incredibly provocative questions and were quite interested in issues related to education programs, college entrance, treatment of students, teen pregnancy, religion and prayer in schools, public vs. private schools, and preventing drug abuse. I especially liked, “Why do Americans like American football so much?” I enjoyed interacting with students throughout the day and they are excited to work with us as well.

One student asked why students in the U.S. go to school for twelve years, but here they only go for ten, graduating from high school at 16. At that age, students are not old enough to get jobs, so they must go to college or trade school. The student felt like she was being shorted an education by two years. However, she doesn’t realize that her private school curriculum is more challenging than many in the U.S. public school system. While I don’t know the timeline for the shift, the Philippines is about to convert to a K-12 system, where they will add two years of advanced high school study. This is causing some concern for everyone involved in the school system, and it will be interesting to see the impact it has on achievement in the years to come.

Following lunch, we met with leaders from each department to discuss best practices related to a variety of educational concerns. Tomorrow I’ll be team teaching with Janrae Sanicas. We’ll cover “Beowulf,” which I haven’t read since high school, so I need to get my “homework” done and be prepared for that.

Once again, there were many notable items related to culture today, and I’ve noted these more in the photo captions. It was, as Randdie, my host teacher, knows, AMAZING! Enjoy!