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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peace Quilt Launched at Chico's

Carol Vanlue (left) and Lura Pierce (right) hold the Butterfly Peace Quilt at Chico's style show. Tiny copper coils rest in the butterfly wings ready to hold new visions-of-peace postcards to be sent to Oprah Winfrey.

Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days provided a backdrop, a place mat for my teaching for seemingly "hundreds of years." But for one promised year, the butterfly peace quilt will become my pictorial frame for travels and storytalking and serendipitous confabs about kids' peacemaking visions. I am hoping that promises will beget promises. Cards will inspire cards...1,000,000 of them, in fact.

Why am I traveling for one year? A promise. Many reasons but here's another one for now. I decided to retire when my students actually believed that I was ancient. For years I had shared an exaggerated age of monumental proportions the first day of school and then chanted my funny opening line, "I want you to know that I'm the oldest living middle school teacher you'll ever have." Usually, kids reacted. I thought I was funny.

This year I made an appointment with a financial planner when 11-year-old Geoff matter-of- factly shared with another teacher that I was quite elderly. Tickled, Ms. Bradshaw gently tried to point out that I couldn't possibly be 412-years-old to which Geoff defiantly stated, "Dr. Pierce wouldn't lie."

Time to travel.

Back to Verne's saga and its connection to the next 365 days. Inevitably, students over the years acted out the fictional characters in a short comedic play of 19 scenes that were periodically filmed over the course of a year. Only on the last day of school was the travel film actually viewed. Meanwhile my attempt to keep the interest of adolescents while teaching geography and just about everything else steadily continued.

Teacher Quiz Questions with Student Answers
1. What is the International Date Line? Not sure.
2 How did it affect the novel's ending? Beats me.
3. Why is the Prime Meridian important to you? Can I get a drink of water?

Obviously, over the years there was always room for more learning about our world--for the OLD and the young. In the process, I at least became hooked on travel and the insatiable urge to learn more about other cultures. I can tell you Phileas Fogg and Passepartout's circuitous route by heart, and I even understand the International Date Line. I always claimed that when I retired, I'd retrace the fictional characters in their adventures.

I am doing that...sorta.

Logically (or illogically, for that matter), if I were going to go around the world as a merry retiree, I'd buy one of those $10,000 around-the-world airplane tickets. I'd plan my itinerary beginning and ending in London, buy one of Rick Steve's backpacks for my light load, talk my husband and friends into joining me on a leg or two of the trip, and take off in a balloon.

I've "taken off" on this world journey, for sure. It's just not quite how I envisioned it. Jules Verne is rolling over in his grave wondering where I'm going with all this too. Instead of London, the peace quilt began its journey at Chico's in Eugene on Coburg Road on July 15, 2009 instead of London in 1872.

After a bit of cajoling, two friends, Katie Stocks and Mary Pat Kersten, modeled for a benefit for the U.S. Nobel Peace Park Project at this higher-priced women's clothing store. The quilt was displayed (back and front) as the intro to the evening. My Shasta colleague, math and science teacher, Kristy McElravy, joined Carol Vanlue to hold the quilt for the audience to see. Her unwaivering support of kids and their peaceful efforts never waivered over the last two years. A kindred spirit. Over 25 polite friends and friends of friends listened to the stories of our adolescents' visions of peace and the connection to the developing peace park at Alton Baker nearby. They waited patiently in anticipation for the novice models' debuts...and wisecracks. "What has Lura gotten us into now?"

To sum it up, in the past two years of incorporating peace studies into the middle school integrated social studies/language arts curriculum through the study of the U.S. Nobel Peace Prize winners, my dream of a world trip changed. Peace and a Promise to kids to spread their visions of peace got in the way. I've begun my trip at home.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Packing the Peace Quilt

My name is Lura and I am newly retired.

Teacherholics Anonymous.

I am a reformed middle school English/history/drama teacher of 30 years who is tumbling into a transitional third chapter of 30 more years doing who knows what. I've put off the acceptance of my retirement for a few months since June 13, my last day working for the Bethel School District in Eugene, Oregon. As the October air slightly shifted toward crisper nights two days ago, and Christmas ads jumped out of Sunday newspaper ads this morning at 5:30 A.M. I faced reality.

Okay, I recently had a few teacher dreams too. They probably were of the out-of-control genre where unruly adolescents are squeezing their fingers into the pencil sharpener or sexting their friends. I really can't remember. More than likely, I was going over the classroom rules on an overhead wishing that I had a Smart Board like the weatherpeople on Channel 5.

The time has come to travel for peace. I will carry the originally designed butterfly peace quilt wherever I am invited. I will tell the story of adolescents researching the U.S. Nobel Peace Laureates, internalizing their own individual ways of becoming peacemakers, and then putting their words into actions.

I will tell their stories of teaching peace to classrooms of first, second, third and fourth graders and to parents, siblings, grandparents, and other adults.

These sixth graders commissioned the quilt from a fabric artist, Carol Vanlue, for $35.00 in pennies after donating another $35.00 to the developing American Laureate Peace Park in Eugene, Oregon.

Because of their enthusiasm and hard work, I am moved to spread a zillion visions of peace to the world with the butterfly quilt as a backdrop. The hope is to inspire others to send postcards to Oprah Winfrey and more importantly, to stir individuals to act on their different ways of changing the world into a better place. (Oprah's P.O. Box is still being stuffed with postcards for peace, but no one knows from where they come. 1,000,000 is the goal.)

I will pack my carpet bag with that peace quilt to travel around the world in 80 days. In my mind at least. I like metaphors and teachers exaggerate.

And, I did promise the kids.

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