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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Two Quilt Talks Honor Martin: You have to be carefully taught

Robie Webb, artistic designer of the tiled "egg," holds her paper mache creation used by Lura(on right) to introduce curricula studies each teaching year. The work of art visually illustrated the study of world cultures and geographical regions. Its unique blend of children's faces and cultural hats emphasized a major educational objective--to teach respect through understanding. On the first day of school each sixth grade student passed the egg after looking inside the black hollow interior to read these white chalky words: "You have to be carefully taught." By then lifting the separate beaded stand, each child discovered the lyrics from South Pacific touting hate and fear being carefully taught year after year. In contrast, the new middle schoolers soon learned that this differently-enabled egg would represent the opposite outcome for their social studies learning goal that year. 'This year will be different. Through your studies, you will be carefully respect, to love, to become peacemakers."

From Kent First Presbyterian Church on January 17 to Snohomish Presbyterian Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, those words rang out clearly. "You have to be carefully taught--to be peacemakers."

A salute goes to J.P. at Shasta. You taught those adults well, Jose. They carefully listened to your story of talking to Dan Arkin, the man in the wheelchair who you met at the developing peace park on the field trip. It was as if you and Dan were in a world apart as the two of you talked and became friends. This past week, over 100 people in Washington State listened to your story of how Dan, a prestigious disabilities lawyer and Nobel Laureate Project Board member, urged you to go to college one day. He believed that you could live out MLK, Jr.'s dreams. He knew that you had researched Martin and that your thoughts had been changed by a hero's life. Later when you debriefed the encounter at school, you proudly spoke about this encouraging adult who believed in you. You mentioned that Dan encouraged you to do your homework(I loved that!) because you needed to be prepared to make a difference in the world. I remember when you restated your dream/vision of peace: "My vision of peace is to become President of the United States to stop violence and war." Mr. Arkin, recently deceased, listened to you. MLK, Jr., deceased in 1968, influenced you. The seeds are planted, aren't they?

You really do have to be carefully have be active, not passive peacemakers.

My vision of peace this past year has already been written a number of times but it never hurts to restate it either, to reactivate my peace commitment: " My V.O.P is that middle schoolers will teach adults what they may have forgotten about peace. I will travel one year with a peace quilt sharing visions of peace inspired by these sixth grade teachers. I will ask all ages to send postcard visions to Oprah Winfrey without the hope of recognition but with the expectation that individual actions can make peaceful change. AND, I will have a blasted good time doing it."

These past two years have centered on a social studies curriculum that I could entitle PEACE 101. It can be summarized in a unit plan, but not easily. Soon I will write lesson plans incorporating social studies, language arts, speech, and character education for anyone who might be interested. I'll attach them to this blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ripples in the Pond--Highlights and Delights in Eastern Oregon

It just seems to be getting better and better--this year of "spreading-the-peace" adventure.

Former Students, if I were in the classroom now, I would want you to know that people are listening carefully to your dreams of peace. And, Oprah, pay attention because those peace postcards are continuing to be mailed. The trickling-in theory is in operation. Some would call this the broken record technique. Basically, the middle schoolers believe that the more cards stuffed into your mailbox, the more someone will notice. Ripples in the pond.

Years ago I never would have thought that my retirement dream of following Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days' fictional itinerary would work out quite like this. Over 30 years, I dreamed of traveling to those places I had taught about through drama and geography throughout my teaching career. When I stepped into a different phase of life, I planned to literally take that exact trip. I'd leave from London and return to London three months later. I'd stop off in Paris, Brindisi, Suez, Calcutta, Shanghai,Yokohama,etc. Simple idea.

Living life changes visions and dreams, and sometimes for the better. I've always been big into revision as a writing teacher. The joke on me is that I thought I was carefully teaching my students. All the time they were teaching me. For now, Verne's book title is being rewritten in my mind as I seek places to share and honor the voices of middle schoolers and their precious visions and dreams for changing the world they are inheriting.

Do you think that Jules would have approved of a different title: Spending One Year with Adolescent Peace Visions Takes Teacher to Unexpected Places? (Slight play on words intended.) Who would have thought that Phileas Fogg would show up in Sisters or Bend, Oregon as he raced around the world to win a wager? Let alone start in Eugene.

The TWIG group at Sister's Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration was a delightfully energizing experience this past Monday. Imagine being able to present peace in a room with a view of the Three Sisters on a clear day. John and I had spent the night before with Eloise and David Barry at Black Butte where we joined other dinner guests, Margie and Dick Tipton. Laughter and peace talk couldn't have been better than with these four new and renewed friends that night. (Hospitality would be another great vision of peace to send out like a butterfly, by the way.) My next day's talk to about 35 women from a variety of church backgrounds and school officials was well received. My favorite comment came from a woman who said that she appreciated my peace talk, but remarks about knowing when to retire and the importance of "letting go" were pivotal for her. She now knew what she must do next.

The following day was the best yet--an hour spent in Maggie Pierce's first grade classroom at Pine Ridge Elementary School. Maggie and I team taught her 20 classmates how to make the peace postcards after displaying the butterfly quilt. Maggie passed out a peace rock(a smooth polished stone) to each child as they left the room. Its purpose was to remind each of the vision he/she had composed and left clipped to the peace quilt for mailing. The rocks were a hit. More ripples?

Maggie's vision was for people not to hurt animals because she loves them. She recalled that her babysitter, Sandy, had taken in a wounded cat that grew healthier, and from there her vision grew. Kid visions abounded with pictures of a green earth, flowers that remained unpicked, caring friendships, and a world with enough money and homes for all.

Brynn, Maggie's mom, e-mailed photos to friends and family with a summary of that hour.."On Tuesday, Maggie and Grandmum presented the Peace Quilt and Lura's Million Visions of Peace project to Maggie's class (Papa John was the photographer). The whole thing went really well! You should have seen the two of them planning things out the night before. A wonderful moment and memory... thanks Lura & John and Mrs. Noll (Maggie's teacher) for making it happen! love... Brynn p.s. Maggie is from a long line of teachers… can you tell?!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January Jaunts

What's up for January trips? Where is the quilt appearing? Four regional engagements. Three hundred people to be reached.

1. I will travel to Sisters, Oregon to speak at the Episcopal Church on January 10-11. An eclectic group of Protestant and Catholic women will create vision of peace postcards after I share the quilt's story.

2. I will visit Granddaughter Maggie's first grade class taught by Mrs. Noll at Pinebrook Elementary in Bend, Oregon. The Pierce Family(John, Maggie, and I) will share peacemaking visions with six-year-olds. We'll create cards for Oprah. Maggie's major line has already been memorized for three months: "Meet Me at the Peace Park."

3. I will preach in Kent, Washington at First Presbyterian Church on MLK, Jr. Weekend. Title of the Sermon: "You Have to be Carefully be Peacemakers." This most diverse community in the area provides opportunity to highlight reasons by MLK, Jr. won the peace prize and more. The children's sermon will be timely when I share actual postcards from Maggie's class before mailing them to Oprah.

4. I will meet with Charlie Lewis's Mission and Justice Group in Snohomish, Washington to "talk peace" and inspire action on January 18, the birthday of MLK, Jr.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Laughing Lura on Tour 2010

2010! A Year of Peace-filled Possibilites!

What a pensive December it was-- a time for me to ruminate about my quilt journey since June. In teacher language, I took time to assess and evaluate but also, to stay put and to listen expectantly for next steps. Time out to think.

The quilt resided on Gary's Coffee Shop wall while I rested too. Its December presence brought continued awareness of the developing peace park in Eugene to relaxed customers drinking chai tea or eggnog lattes and to Last Friday Art Walk viewers. The peace sing-along was a hoot...lots of friends singing peace songs together, all led by the Harmony Quartet. During this quilt stop, U.S. Nobel Peace Prize winners' visions-of-peace postcards illustrated by middle schoolers were attached to the fabric surface for people to examine if they felt like it.

A Few Postcard Examples on the Quilt:
"My vision of peace is to destroy all landmines." Jody Williams, 1997.

"My vision of peace is for everybody to have food to eat, especially young children." Norman Borlaug, 1970.

"My vision of peace is that all women would have rights." Emily Green Balch, 1946.

"Everybody can be great because everybody can only need a heart full of grace...a soul generated by LOVE." Martin Luther King Jr., 1964

Guiding quotes have surfaced this month. Eleanor Roosevelt's call to work for peace is one I am adopting, and there are two others that are the essence of the next year of my travels outside the U.S. As I once more commit to action by fulfilling a teacher's promise, I will spread middle schoolers' visions of peace to adults who may have forgotten how peace really can look and sound. I will go where the joy is to be found.

1. At the height of laughter the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities- Jean Houston

2. When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. When action comes from another section, the feeling disappears. Rumi

Thus, Onward into 2010: Laughing Lura on Tour 2010. Was December a productive thinking month? Yes. I know one thing for sure. I won't run for City Council. (That's another story for another time.) There's not much of a river of joy or laughter in that possibility.

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