At last, a 12-week immersion as a high school English Literature, English Language, and a writing instructor has come to an end. My former school, at which I served as a teacher and assistant principal, used my services during a teacher’s maternity leave. It was great to be back in the classroom. Yet, with also working both days of the weekend on my other pursuits, I’d only had 4 days off prior to Thanksgiving weekend.
Since the absent teacher never attempted to contact me or oversee what I was doing with her charges, I was free to modify the curriculum. However, I requested the administration to provide syllabi previously used. The chance to delve into classics like Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son,” and Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” were treats, as I’d never read them before. However, it was nostalgic to re-visit Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter because I’d had it as the main piece of literature in my own high school junior year.
Working with students for their AP English Language course brought studies in grammar, rhetoric, and a slew of literary devices I’d not previously been acquainted with, but I captured a greater appreciation for the structure and strategies used in oral and written communication. We also explored the classical appeals of Aristotle, Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” and tactics used by advertisers to influence consumers. Yet, with all these great learning adventures and getting to know and work with my wonderful students, the most exciting result from my teaching term was the chance to make movies!
When we were about halfway through with it, in order to challenge the students with relating the psychosocial dynamics of Hawthorne’s novel, they collaborated via small groups of 5-6 to write modern-day versions of the tale. Upon completion of their stories, they were given the opportunity to vote for continuing the novel along more conventional means of assessment or to cultivate new skills in creating a film. I’d explained that it would entail storyboarding, costumes, props, filming, stage direction, and editing. Of three classes participating in voting through secret ballots, the two honors classes chose to tackle the film project. After starting down this process though, three students requested to not opt for doing the film, so I’d written separate lesson plans for them throughout the 3 weeks that the other students scurried about the school to find settings where they could film. We’d even explored green screen filming, as having school stairwells was often the only place that they could shoot.
I’ll admit that I spent a good portion of their periods popping into monitor their arguments, noting that sometimes they were getting attention because in the boy groups one had to play Hester, and in the girl groups some had to assume the male roles of Rev. Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. There were times when they’d have to suspend their filming in the hallways when troops of elementary kids traversed their path to go to prayer or the library. Favors were requested of teachers for their tolerance of my students’ intrusions to request props they’d spied within classrooms, using the Main Office counter and reception windows to simulate a hotel desk, getting knowledge on how to use an SLR camera for recording, and to request administration to allow some of the girls to wear abayas instead of school uniforms to speed up getting into costume each day. At times, I’d wondered if they’d be able to make the deadline I’d set the day before my final day there, but I saw the overall happiness, true engagement, and ownership the students invested in their projects.
The leadership of some students rose as they directed, social skills evolved as one student who normally showed little responsive affect was transformed through his peers coaching him on how to be a leading man. As part of the movie script, one of the students actually gave another a greatly fashionable haircut, and I saw them beam in brotherly solidarity. Girls who had seemingly opposite personalities at first clashed, but then came together as great actors.
Then one day, an obviously very bright, but undermotivated, student stopped by my desk before leaving and said, “Miss, I just want you to know that now I really like coming to school.” My heart melted, then felt sad that it implied that he normally did not like school, and finally I determined whatever the outcome, this crazy venture was worthwhile.
The students’ films varied in the final analysis from Good to Awesome. On our final day together, I’d asked them to please give me a reflection and feedback on how I could support them better if I were ever to do this again. They confirmed what I knew in that there should have been interim goals and milestones established. Now I know what those should be. We really did not appreciate the value of detailed storyboarding until the shooting began. At times I saw students doing numerous re-shoots of scenes, and I’d tell them to leave it, edit later, and move on to the next scene. If I were to do it again, I’d create a rubric that specifies more about required storyboard elements, the expectations for sound effects, music, a shooting schedule, and a standard for opening and closing segments.
Overall, I’d describe this though as one of the most daring and successful experiences. Prior to the start, I’d taken the time to build trust; know my students; openly admit that I’d not tried this with any class before, but that I would help them learn something new in creating their own film.
In 12 weeks, my intention was to move the bar forward for these students in my charge. Working with commitment, integrity, and diligence, and I am gratified when I see it reciprocated in my students’ efforts. Being a teacher is not easy, but never underestimate the impact you can have, hopefully for good.
Next, I’m scheduled for some foot surgery which will involve some bone cutting…. Wearing a special boot, I’ll be creating 2 education presentations for the MAS-ICNA Convention in Chicago the last week in December. Also, as programming chairperson for the ISNA Education Forums, I will be presenting in Costa Mesa, CA January 18-19 and Chicago April 19-21, God willing.
Meanwhile, as I convalesce, I have my iPad Kindle loaded with books and will be listening to piano adagios. 😉
3 ½ Catalysts for Energy to Serve
Ah, the marriage of handwriting to paper! The powerful impact, potential, and pleasure derived from it will never die. Writing, that is, inspired writing takes a certain energy that comes from one’s creative core.
My writing serves in various forms. There is the technical, research-based type that I reserve for Halal, Education, and Entrepreneurial publications, and the introspective form which taps wisdom and fancies of my own grey matter preserved here in my blog. Through these, I share knowledge of the sacred and sometimes profane.
Yet, with the daily routines, work projects, and hiccups that disrupt the calm–often involving family–energy reserves are easily depleted. Even with the best intentions, sometimes it feels like one is hauling a bag of cinder blocks just to get over the finish line each day.
Energy management became a focus from when I was a school administrator, and there were three main catalysts I found to be effective: 1a) Get enough sleep – My husband is a confirmed night owl, and I like to stay awake to share time with him. Whether we have our noses glued to our phones or iPads, watching Netflix, or preparing merchandise for sale, we are either working or relaxing together most evenings. I’m blessed to start and finish most days with him. 1b)Catch a reset nap – On days when fasting, when my fitness tracker confirms that I have had less than 6 ½ hours of sleep, or when I’m dragging and need to “reset” and refresh my brain, it is frankly good time management to nap a bit. Normally, I’ll average around 7 hours most nights that power me through a whole day; but on days when I can reboot with a nap, I move and think much faster and efficiently. That compensates for the time to nap. 2) Do something “Fun” – Knocking out a quick win on a game app, doing a few deep breaths while lifting dumbbells (strong women stay young, right?), getting outside for fresh air, listening to a few upbeat dance tunes, or drawing a line through the easiest thing on my ubiquitous list of “to do” activities is “fun” for me.
What do you do if you must do something that’s not “fun”? Just chip away at it until it’s complete, even if it means doing a bit each day so that you maintain focus through its execution. 3) Check your intentions – Last spring, when I was knocked down with a bout of the flu, I just didn’t feel my energy to be strong enough to want to get out of bed. My symptoms had mostly resolved; yet, I simply did not feel like I was ready to jump back into life. Then I saw a vision board I’d made that reminded me of the “me” I aspired to be, and miraculously that sparked my “why.” The reasons I needed to be athletic, healthy, strong, skilled, giving, loving, and available to serve were what set me back on my course.
It is easy to forget that we are destined to be great. We are given opportunities to grow and share; we enjoy blessings and endure sorrows and challenges. We are human, with all the faults and chances to experience the regeneration of our compassion, to celebrate our lives.
The Influence When my editor in Dubai posted a Tweet that she’d read All the Light We Cannot See, I decided that it appeared to be an interesting read. While I typically favor non-fiction, occasionally it is refreshing to delve into literature, especially if it is vivid in descriptive prose, as is this book.
Cited with accolades, it took a while for it to become available from my library near Chicago because four other patrons thought to reserve it as well before it was my turn. And I happened to be in a severe time crunch with six freelance projects locking me down, whereby the only exercise I caught was fetching groceries, running upstairs to use my printer, or dragging the laundry basket to the basement.
When I finally brought the book home, I kept it perched on my glass table in the living room, opposite the couch where I have set up a comfortable workstation with a bright daylight view out the picture window. I tired from staying stuck with my laptop on my kitchen table for many years, as I spend enough time in the kitchen.
One day, my daughter came to visit. She saw the book and lit up. “Ah! I’m reading the same book!” She’d seen it at our local book store, where she sometimes likes to go and lose herself in the imaginary world that only reading can reveal.
At hearing that from her, although I’d considered just returning it, unread, due to my workload, I committed to find time enough to push through about 100 pages per day. I’m about half way through, and am seriously considering gifting a copy to a favored nephew. And that chain of events triggered the realization of the power of influence. Manipulating this can be a useful tool or a nemesis.
My Fitbit, which has heightened my awareness about sleep and activity levels, has prompted former students, friends, and relatives to connect with me, and it has influenced my desire to strive harder for more activity and to defend my need for more sleep…though I am still working on improvement.
Granted, in times like the present when I have a ton of work or even when I have had some overuse injuries, I can’t match my own goals; however, though I set my daily step goal for 12,000 on average, I have the influence of my students, some 30 years younger, achieving 140,000 steps weekly. That has some degree of motivation for me because at my core is a bit of competitive drive, and that’s a treasure.
Do you deliberately fuel yourself with things that can influence you toward success in your health, work, and relationships? There are benefits to immersing yourself with art, music, spiritual nurturing, science discoveries, nature, literature, and reminders which yield your gratitude.
Especially in these times when much disruption, disorder, and disgusting behavior is seen, these are salves which help keep us driving forward for our aspirations to not be obliterated. This innate ability to mirror higher ordered conduct and elements associated with civilization can be used for our benefit or our detriment. It depends on our choices, so be sure to feed your body, mind, and soul with better content and use influence to help others as well.
Yes, I started with “So.” Every day, for weeks now, I’ve been itching to write with funny thoughts, literary lines, and odd ramblings flowing from my brain. I’m the only one who gets to enjoy them.
I’ve struggled to settle on a single topic, and the possibilities range from humorous, reminiscent poetic, didactic, and even exasperated vents. Yet, I rarely sit with nothing to do, as I manage my household of 6, each day slips by without a word etched to my blog.
Want to Be Part of an Experiment? –in a few days I’ll tell you why
While starting my day with the usual morning bathroom routine (ahem), I contrived a strategy for keeping the writing skills juiced, as well as a potential method for those who think they can’t write or have writer’s block. Instead of formally composing, why not simply journal my odd observations and mental tangents to see what would be the result…?
…Looking at my face in the mirror, why do I have creases on both brow bones? I’m a side-sleeper, but should it really take 15 minutes to dissipate that evidence?!
…Why do I have grown children who leave their clothes, even after I remind them countless times, for a week on our bathroom floor (sigh)!?
…Breakfast is my favorite meal. Today, we have tea, bread, olive oil with zaatar (Greek oregano, sesame seeds, sumac), scrambled eggs, and fried sheep cheese from Palestine, which I share with my husband, Riad. Over breakfast, we review happenings on the stock market, the 60-some degree weather this morning, the fact that one of our adult children is leaving for college in one week, and the bank account. Oh, and the prospects of going to a water park, as Riad has never been initiated.
Over a robust cup of freshly ground coffee while enjoying my view from the patio, I calculate and negotiate the options for my schedule. Among them are the following:
Capture the chance for a morning bike ride
Grocery shop because it must be done today
Tackle the long “to do” list for developing my professional work
Visit a relative whose mother came recently and deliver to her my Eid gift
Pack a box of books from my basement and run them to the Book Rescue
As a former assistant principal, I’m trained to prioritize, constantly reevaluate and prioritize again. However, first I’ll choose to read two pages from Qur’an. It’s better than vitamins, and keeps my Arabic skills intact.
Decided. Pack a box of books, drive in a loop to the next town to drop off, after a bank deposit, and pick up groceries at 3 stores en route before returning home. I have an appointment with my Dad at a wound clinic in 2 hours. The race is on!
…On 2nd thought, the van is still a mess from the Eid weekend camping trip and needs a wash and vacuum. With Dad about 40 minutes away, who am I kidding?! Pack books, jump in van and plan to shop after Dad’s appointment.
While power washing the van to blast off the sticky residue of blackberries—or was it raccoon scat with blackberries?—I recollected the monumental blackberry tree we had in our village in the occupied West Bank. One of the nephews cleared it in order to build some market stalls on the property, which enraged the family, but that led my mind (incredible what thoughts come while washing your car for 3 minutes) to a little flashback.
I had baby #3 in Jerusalem and lived with my sister-in-law and my other two youngsters in the West Bank, while my husband went to explore business prospects in Saudi Arabia, staying with his brother for 6 months. One night, Israeli soldiers came banging on our porch door wanting to take a population survey, a sort of census. In our nighties, we covered in prayer dresses and felt vulnerable because they had rifles, but my sister-in-law stayed calm. She said that the “man of the house” was on a business trip. There was tension in the air. Even the soldier interviewing us seemed a bit uptight. Just then, my 4 year old daughter came to the door, sleepy-eyed; I spoke to her in English to go back inside the house.
The soldier asked in Arabic, “Do you have a car?” At that, my dearly clever sister-in-law covered her mouth with the hem of her headcovering and giggled, Wallah ciara, walla tiara!” (Not a car, not an airplane!). The rhyme gave ease to the situation and the soldier smiled and ended his intrusion, but the realization of potential alternative outcomes stayed with me.
Done with the bank; going to Dad’s– a 30 minute trip from here. The books are in the back of the van. I’m not planning on bringing the wheel chair. He uses a walker now, but we may opt to dose him with a bit of hydrocodone after debriding his heel and Achilles wounds. Today marks 3 months since the tumbling incident that started this.
Waiting at the Wound Clinic for the doctor, Dad came early and is ahead of schedule. After this, he wants to shop for produce; I may shoot two birds with one stone and do some of my own errands this way! His spirits are good and he said that sometimes he forgets his walker when moving about the kitchen. I can tell how active he’s been by how many sticky spots I clean off the floor each visit. Previously, I had to attend to change his bandages each day, except when his home health care nurse would come. Now, my sisters can also schedule in time using a Google Doc we share for that purpose.
The Wound Clinic doctor and main nurse are Irish-American; Dad chose to don his kelly green St. Pat’s sweatshirt. Tick Tock…even though we came twenty minutes early for our 1:00 p.m. appointment, it is 1:05…thinking of all the other things I could be doing. Surprisingly, Dad is not cantankerous yet at the delay. Perhaps he is listening to the court update on Jesse Jackson, Jr. and wife, or the chit chat between an elderly Chinese lady and her attending son, in Chinese. The world has changed a lot since he was a boy in Brighton Park, a neighborhood in Chicago.
1:10 Dad is funny. We have a new nurse today, Elizabeth, who is not Irish. He asked about Kelly, the Irish one, and mentions that he wore his sweatshirt just for her. Kelly is at lunch and may not see him today. For the millionth time over 3 months, he is asked about if he has pain, on a scale of 1-10… He looks at me and rolls his eyes at this point.
Alright, wound doc was optimistic and cited progress. That is only in millimeters, but still positive. He pulled the perimeter scabbing, hurting Dad. Better him than me doing it. Wound dressed and ready to go grocery shopping with hopes to get him back on the golf course by the end of September, if even only on the practice putting green. I had my own first foray of the year on Monday; 9 holes and wishing for more, but the short game killed me. Practice…
2:00 We are on the road again toward the produce market.
3:10 I’m running a tune-up on Dad’s computer because he complained that it was horribly slow. While waiting, knowing he has eaten nothing but a banana, coffee, and orange juice all day, I offer to make him lunch. What does he choose? Corn! “Where’s the wound healing, body building protein in that?” I ask him. We agreed he add some Greek yogurt to that order. Sugar/carb addiction runs in my genes, but fortunately we have no diabetes.
Two of my kids and a friend send texts to me about dinner, my whereabouts, and evening plans. I’d check in with Riad, but assume he is busy now.
Decide to email my siblings about Dad’s doctor visit. We will go to every other day bandaging since his drainage is decreasing. Computer is still in tune-up mode.
3:45 Done! Need to run to buy my Halal chicken and specialty items from the Mediterranean Market close to home and get cooking. Checked in with Riad; business was good today. Whew!
Remembering the books in the back of the van and the folding chairs we packed to see Perseid meteorites a couple days ago by our relatives in the boondocks, exurbs of Chicago.
4:05 Very sleepy, I have 2 more miles till the next tollway exit.
Yay! The Book Rescue was still open to take my donation. Next, I’m going to the health food store to buy some Redmond (UT) salt and coconut oil, then to the Mediterranean Market.
Upon exiting the health food store, I saw a man I recognized as a parent from my former school. “Assalamu alaikum,” he greeted me kindly. It’s nice to see people in my town that recognize each other. We have a rather large population of Muslims of diverse backgrounds. This man I recalled worked at McDonald’s headquarters nearby.
If you’ve been following this blog, you might ask, “What happened to California?” Well, we would still love to relocate, but the reality is that 3 kids in college and their still unstable, dependent statuses have us pigeonholed here awhile. We also have a teenager who has decent friends, and is still at an impressionable age. It is sensible to keep that support for him. Truth be known, there are many positive aspects to living near Chicago, but I do take exception to the weather, especially the long cold season that inhibits our love of doing things outdoors. For now, if we can afford to escape a few times during that long spell, I would be satisfied. However, I do hold visions of relocating in the future when parental obligations lighten.
Also, this past Ramadan, a segment of my community started a new mosque. Lacking a building for worship though, they contracted the local high school gym during the month long evening Taraweeh prayers and hired a wonderful reciter (Qari) of the Qur’an. There, I saw many former students and teachers that just made me feel wonderful to be in their company. Even a former teacher is First Violin of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra; she was so kind to offer me tickets to their October Tchaikovsy concert. I have invited my nephew, a young cellist, to join me, and I am so much looking forward to that!
At the Mediterranean Market, I saw another lady who referred me to her brother-in-law in Ohio. He was my expert consultant on an article I wrote about keeping fit in Ramadan last year. I noticed through Facebook that he has been having some health issues requiring surgeries, so we had a chance to catch up and I learned more details on his struggles.
I thought about squeezing in a bike ride as I drove home, but Riad greeted me and did not feel like biking. Quickly, I pray the last few minutes possible for Thuhr, the mid-day prayer, and also catch the starting time for Asr, the mid-afternoon prayer. Finding the best way to acquire good habits is to tag on to existing habits, I do 15 push-ups and 30 squats for exercise. We have yet to return to the gym schedule after Ramadan.
Throw the folding chairs from the van into the garage and replace 3 broken slabs of jalousie glass panes before making dinner.
5:00 Time to Cook!
Cooking time usually is when my kids know that they can get my ear when I’m in the kitchen. I really don’t love cooking, to tell the truth, but sometimes I can get into it. During Ramadan, it was not unusual to be stuck there for 5 hours at a time, but my family is spoiled to an extent. The kids generally don’t eat breakfast, but they do want a hearty dinner. That is where I put effort and often about 3 hours of my day, but I have plans for 7:00 p.m. so I have to rush.
Why did the recipe state that 3-4 minutes on each side would brown chicken thighs?! It took 30 minutes! I had Moroccan Chicken Stew (magazine recipe) and a steamed kale, turkey bacon, and apple combo as a side dish. Sure enough, two of my sons take time to brief me on their day while I cook, and one acquiesced to take the picture of me cooking for a new Facebook profile pic.
Wolfing down dinner, it is 6:50 and I have to race to mid-town to see my friend, Yvonne of My Halal Kitchen, present at 7:00 at our local library. My daughter, her friend, and fiancé will attend too.
Presented by Yvonne Maffei, she outlined the basics of Islam, the wide array of Muslims representing many cultures and nations, aspects of the lunar month of Ramadan, understandings of Halal and Tayeb (Wholesomeness), fasting rituals in a typical day, the growth of fusion cuisine in America, Eid traditions, and my favorite…dessert demo: Stuffed Dates with Crème Fraish!
Back Home Again and Still Crankin’
9:00 Home again after Yvonne’s presentation, and I have to perform the sunset prayer. The kitchen needs post-dinner clean up, since I ran out the door with my husband still eating.
9:45 It’s time for a 4 mile walk with Riad, whereby we talk and listen to background tunes on Pandora via our phones.
11:00 Back from our walk; one of my sisters calls with news of a conference she recently attended for promotional products professionals, and we trade opinions on Dad’s care. I’m snacking on grape tomatoes and Gouda cheese. My eldest son comes home from a camping and fishing trip, and he debriefs with me by the kitchen table.
12:15 Time to pray, shower, and then my daughter visits us in the bedroom to re-cap on Yvonne’s presentation and how pictures of samosas inspired her and her fiancé to go to an Indian restaurant for late dinner. I’m really tired, but now everyone has touched base with “Mom” and one kid is still out running a nighttime neighborhood blitz type of game with friends. I decide to finally check in on Facebook, as I’d not had a chance to do so yet in the day.
12:50 My last kid is in and I’m signing off with plans to be up at 4:00 for my thyroid medicine, 5:00 for fajr, the dawn prayer, and start a new day by 8:30. Love the summer schedule!
There never was time to write a formal blog, per se, but time to write throughout the day. Somehow it gave me relief to purge out the extension I wished to make and document what seems like a crazed existence, but a happy one. Would you consider this a valid exercise for getting students/writers to express themselves and practice editing?