Writing without fear. Writing with love…

My 2nd Grade Students 2013-2014

My 2nd Grade Students 2013-2014

“Everyday Acts of Kindness” has been a constant topic of discussion in my second grade classroom since the start of the year. My class cubs are an extraordinarily amazing group of human beings. I’m in awe of the amount of cultural capital/forms of knowledge they bring to each discussion at such young ages. I could listen to them all day. Building on  “Everyday Acts of Kindness” we began a discussion about – Needs and Wants.

To introduce the concept we read the book, A Chair for My Mother. This is a heartwarming story about a family & the values of saving and working together towards a common goal after all their belongings are burned in a fire. To build on the theme of community & giving the author illustrates how friends and neighbors bring furniture to the new apartment. However, noticeably missing is a television, x-box, etc. As a class we discuss how the girl, who along with her waitress mother, save coins in a big jar in hopes that they can someday buy a big, new, comfortable chair for their new apartment — the kind of chair her mother deserves after being on her feet all day in the Blue Tile Diner. Into the jar also goes the money Grandma saves when she gets a bargain at the market.

It’s a good story that builds on our discussions of “Everyday Acts of Kindness” and “Giving”. After our discussion, I drew two large circle maps (Thinking Maps – used to brainstorm all of our thoughts about the concept of “Needs” and “Wants”). In the center of the circle map we wrote the topic we wanted to brainstorm. Some questions we wanted to answer were – What can we not live without? What are things we need to live? What does your heart need? What does your body need? If you can have anything in the world what would you want? We are still building on our thoughts and will add to the circle maps tomorrow. Tonight as part of their homework they need to ask their family – What are the families needs? They also have to come up with some ideas about what their community may need and what our earth needs? The families needs, communities needs, earth’s needs will be written into the circle map using a different white board marker color in order to aid in our ability to classify the needs. Throughout the week we will add more to our maps as we prepare to organize our thoughts and write a paper on “Needs” and “Wants” and what we each have the power to do in making our world a kinder place.

My 2nd graders spent some time brainstorming a few of their "Needs" & "Wants"

My 2nd graders spent some time brainstorming a few of their “Needs” & “Wants”

Adding to the Circle Map (brainstorming) 12-3-2013

Adding to the Circle Map (brainstorming) 12-3-2013

Recording what he believes he & others may need.

Recording what he believes he & others may need.

There have been moments in my life that have been extremely challenging and I have struggled. I’m not perfect, however with each challenge (I now view these challenges as pathways) I have discovered the power gratitude can have in my life – it all began with realizing I can not control circumstances, events or anyone BUT myself. With each pathway I’ve clung to cultivating an attitude of gratitude and have expected myself to extend that further into my everyday actions and thoughts. So now that my student’s actions are springing from a desire to be kind and show kindness to themselves and others I want them to realize that they are not too young and no act of kindness is too small to help their families, communities, and planet. As we discussed other ways we can/could show kindness one of my students had a wonderful idea to share their stories with others “so it can help them if they are having a sad day.” Another said “maybe I can write a funny story to cheer them up,” another said “I can write a letter and tell them why they are important.” I said, “YES, YES, YES!!!”  They made me cry. I was deeply moved to witness their hearts in action.  So we decided as a class to write letters to whomever needs cheering up, to whomever just needs to hear a funny story, or to whomever needs someone to tell them they are important.

This is where we need your HELP. My students need people to write letters to. They are ready to write letters to anyone who request one. I hope, no, I pray that I can get responses to this blog requesting a letter from one of my second grade students. So I need at least 21 request (I have 21 – 2nd graders). They are excited and looking forward to putting their hearts into each letter and are hopeful it will make someone smile. My class cubs mean the world to me. I want them to always be filled with questions. I want them to always question. I want them to be able to put things into perspective. I want them to be able think critically and not settle for the status quo. So, pplleeaassee…help me be of service to them.

If you would like to request a letter from one of my students please tell us a little about yourself and share with us your story and need. We would like to mail you a response. If you are not comfortable with sharing you address I understand, I can share my email address if you prefer.

Help my second grade students realize that their HEARTS, their WORDS, their TIME and ACTS OF KINDNESS can bring peace and love to their life and to the receiver’s life as well.

With love and deep respect,

-Joyce Ann

Joyce 12/2013

Joyce 12/2013

Listening and Yearning for My Homeland

A dear friend sent this to me today. Little do they know just how much I needed it.

A dear friend sent this picture of Tse’ Bit’ ai’ (Shiprock) to me today. A picture snapped to capture the beauty of my home right after the rain. Little did they know just how much I needed it.

Farming, herding, walking, running through the valleys and mountains of the Navajo Nation, one can smell, hear, feel, and see the life and endless possibility of Dinétah. The wind, the life breath of the land that lies between the four sacred mountains maintains the connection between the Navajo people, no matter where we reside and our ancestral home.

Dinétah has always been a source of strength and pride during my struggle with violence in the form of rape, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, reproductive control, murder, and the trauma of history. As a Diné woman I am surround by countless Diné women who have their own stories of colonial cruelties and internalized abuse. Each of these women’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual survival in spite of severe trauma is testament to the courage, power and inner strength of us all. It is from the struggles of my ancestors that I learn the importance of going back to the beginning in order to go forward in a healthy way. There will always be a time when you HAVE to “GO BACK.”  The acknowledgement of past trauma and heartache is integral to my personal and collective recovery. It allows me the opportunity to lay the foundation for a healthy future by learning from my personal traumas of the past and from the history of trauma suffered by my ancestors. It is my responsibility as a Diné woman to understand the historic and systemic nature of my wounds. I have to learn how to think for myself and not rely on others to think for me. I have to hold tight to who I am. Who I am is – Diné, Navajo ceremony, land, what I write, the words I speak, the kindness I carry in my heart, the love I give, the way in which I care for my children, the way in which I honor my community, the way in which I honor my family, and the everyday acts that allow me to be able to maintain hózhó.

I allowed my hardships to disconnect me from my true self. I allowed my hardships to disconnect me from my ancestors. I have to “go back” to go forward. I have to “go back” to RECLAIM my traditions. I have to “go back” to RESTORE  & REBUILD my RELATIONSHIPS. I have to “go back” to REBUILD who I am. I have to “go back” to have the strength to RESIST. I have to “go back” to RESURGE to LIVE and ACT! There is no other way to heal but to un-become what I am as a result of denial, avoidance, repression, and the impact of colonialism. My RECOVERY is painful and will continue to be for some time BUT it is healing, it is my RESTORATION.

With love and deep respect,

– J