Thursday, September 17, 2009

A beautiful reflection

I arrived at the Marconi Center not having the slightest clue what to expect.

I also didn’t know that just over forty-eight hours, particularly a one-hour block of time spent merely staring and a timeless and seemingly endless experience that others have assured me was no longer than forty-five minutes, could completely change my outlook on life.

Within five minutes of being at the Marconi Center, five minutes of breathing the pine-filled air, five minutes of examining the bell-like poppies, five minutes of gazing at the ocean, all of the stress that not only constantly surrounds me but follows—no, chases, pursues me wherever I go, simply melted away, surrounding my feet but not being able to touch me. I had always known that school was not, contrary to popular belief, the purpose of our lives (and that one’s education is actually hindered by trying too hard to excel at it), but I had never been able to truly feel it until that first breath of pine-air.

The first thing we all did after marveling at our heavenly living quarters for longer than expected was explore the place, since we were several hours early to the retreat and honestly had nothing better to do (actually, I can’t think of anything I would rather have been doing at the time) only to discover the reason our bedrooms were so heavenly: we were, in fact, in some lower level, some earthly level, of Heaven. I would be glad to go further into the beauty of this place if you happen to have the floor-plan for Heaven with you right now. Otherwise it would take too long, and since my name isn’t John Steinbeck I won’t pester you with the details.

Along our journey two things stuck out as particularly incredible to me. The first was a miniature multi-tiered waterfall reminiscent of a Japanese garden in all its divinity. The other was a redwood tree. I never could find that tree again, although it did change the life of at least one other person at the retreat.

Later on that night when the other sixty-some-odd people arrived, we were split into nine “Home Groups”, each consisting of retreat-goers between the ages of fifteen and eighty-five. None of us will ever know how, but the “random” assignment of people to their respective Home Groups somehow managed to give each person at the retreat the perfect group of people to help them evolve spiritually.

I awoke unnaturally early the next morning and decided to walk around the Marconi Center on my own. Noticing only the plants, rocks, chipmunks and jackrabbit, but most certainly not where I was actually going, I found myself back at the waterfall. I decided to sit down on a rock on its bank and, as I so often do when I really don’t know what else to do, I just stared. I stared at the water. I am not confident in my ability to describe things without drawing them so bear with me: the top of the waterfall is of course just a clear pool. After the first fall the water is allowed to flow freely for a short ways, but is soon interrupted by small boulders that block part of its path. It is then free to flow a short distance until it falls down another waterfall. This continues for several tiers, the layers of rock becoming increasingly denser, making it more difficult for the water to pass through, but somehow it always does. But right before the last fall, there are no rocks. Instead there is a sheet of tall grass, like small stalks of bamboo. Certainly no insect or hummingbird that was on the water was able to see over the grass without flying above it. And over that last fall is a large, open, clear pool, where the water may flow as it pleases. And as I stared at the water I noticed bubbles forming at the top of the first fall, and I noticed that some of the bubbles flowed down the first waterfall, while some went the other way, and simply disappeared with a small pop. And I noticed that most, but not all, of the bubbles that made it down the first waterfall made it past the first set of rocks to the next waterfall, and most of the ones that fell down it continued to the next, until only a few of the original bubbles made it past the reeds to that final pool; and as I noticed these things I realized that this was all a metaphor for life: we are but bubbles in a fountain, and in order to make it to that final pool at the end, we must all find a way around the rocks and falls that block us, until we finally reach, at the end of each lifetime, the curtain of reeds, and the uncertainty of what lies beyond, and we must not be afraid of it, but instead we must—

I had just missed an incredible (or so I’m told) banana pancake breakfast.

As wonderful as the rest of that day was, I wish only to bring up an unknown quantity of time (though I know it was more than twenty minutes and less than three hours) spent sitting on a rock in between two forest paths where I had followed a chipmunk and two jackrabbits. My original intent for sitting on the rock was to observe the behavior of the two wild jackrabbits, for I often think of myself as a scientist and naturally am curious about many things, especially since the behavior of jackrabbits is not something easily observable in the heart of Oklahoma City. Eventually the jackrabbits left, and I was left grass and twigs on the ground, the rock I was contentedly sitting on, and two young trees to the left of the rock. I was bored, so I picked up a twig and tossed it between the trees. A recently-finished spider-web caught the twig in midair, and I watched as my inner child gaped in absolute wonder at the twig that could make itself fly. I tossed more twigs next to it, and there they were, standing in midair parallel to the trunks of the trees as the child marveled at what magic could possibly be at work here. And suddenly my heart became a metronome, and everything began to harmonize with it, though I could hear no sound but the occasional conversation between far-away sparrows. This is what I will define forever as “inner peace”.

The eighty or so people at the Retreat were to go through the Labyrinth in two waves, and I was in the second wave. I decided I’d go into the room with the Labyrinth while the first wave was going through just to see what exactly was going on. I’d had a crazy obsession with hot tea the whole weekend, so it came as no surprise to me that when I walked into the circular room containing the Labyrinth, the first thing I thought was that the room looked oddly like the cup or orange spice tea I was drinking at the time. Then I noticed the people. The people in the room were either sitting calmly, not saying anything and maybe drinking a cup of hot tea, or they were on the Labyrinth, walking or dancing along, completely unaware of their surroundings, each engaged in their own form of meditative movement. Outside of this room, any of these people would have been labeled a freak or an outcast by any other “normal” person, but not inside of it. Inside everyone’s inner mind seemed to surface and take over, and the body of each person was no longer under their conscious control.
And all I could do was watch and wonder what exactly this thing on the floor in front of me was that was causing these people to act like this.
The last person in the first wave left the room, and the spaces on the walls had filled with an entirely new group of people, the second wave of meditators.
“Welcome to the Labyrinth. Going through the Labyrinth is a form of meditation known to provide answers to those who seek answers, questions to those who seek answers, and answers to those who seek questions.” All three applied to me. “When I tap you on the shoulder, you may proceed into the Labyrinth. All I ask is that you stay within the path and not run into others. Now….we begin.”
After finishing the remains of my tea I entered the Labyrinth. The music playing sounded like the orange spice tea tasted, if that makes any sense. As I walked, I wondered what I was even doing there. After some unknown amount of time (it could have been a few seconds or an hour as far as I was concerned), my mind began to wander into a complex stream of something deeper than thought, or perhaps it just felt that way. I was suddenly aware of nothing but the inner workings of my mind, yet at the same time completely aware of everything in the room, the floor, the music, the people, and I was completely aware of the fact that we were all dancing like the steam on top of a hot cup of tea, not in unison but still somehow together, connected somehow by the environment the room created for us, connected, even though we were all perfect strangers.

The rest has been omitted for personal reasons.

Monday, September 14, 2009

July 26-July 27: San Francisco

Afternoon of July 26: We arrived to the Radisson at Fisherman's Wharf (415-392-6700; reservations: 1-800-395-7046) in the afternoon. If we go back to San Francisco, this is a perfect location. The hotel is in the middle of everything.

We started shopping together, but decided to go on age cohorts according to interest. We met for dinner at Bubba Gump. The experience was good, but expensive.

In the evening, WE EXPERIENCE a memorable time together. Emily led us in the most powerful reflection. We discovered how much we had enjoyed the retreat. Words such as forgiveness, discovery, focus, connectivity, and change were delivered in powerful reflective dialogs.

July 27: Desire to sleep late divided our group in age cohorts. Jeanie and I began exploring the Wharf before 8:00 a.m. while the grils slept. We shopped at Wall Greens and had a wonderful breakfast at Boudine's. After breakfast, the girls still wanted to sleep and we went exploring the pier with the intention of meeting the girls for lunch at LA MAR, a high scale Peruvian restaurant.

Jeanie and I had decided to have lunch together while the girls went shopping. We loved the Pier and walked to downtown San Francisco. Our goal was to see the Shynno-en Foundation headquarters. On our way to the headquarters, I discover Jeanie as a walking encyclopedia and acute observer.

On our way to the headquaters, many surprises, unexplainable "good things" happen to us. One of them was that Jeanie bought Steven Covey's books and CD's for the library. I can hardly wait to read them and use them.

At the headquarters, we saw Haru and Liane. That was a wonderful surprise. I asked Liane for "Be the Peace Cards" for Casady and told her that the cards were the foundation of my freshman facilitation of service learning. When I arrived to Casady in August, the cards were waiting for me. Also on a sad note, I found out in early September that Liane and Maura will no longer be directly working for the Foundation. New wonderful people I am sure will be in their place, but they both were very special to me.

Everyone was debriefing the retreat at the headquarters so we stay only a few minutes. It was great to see where everything starts.

Jeanie and I had lunch at La Mar. It was expensive, had a wonderful view, but the food was not what I expected. I was glad the girls did not have to experiene our expensive dissapoitment.

We met the girls at the famous book store, "City Lights." We had a wonderful time there. Then, we had dinner in China town and the girls and Jeanie had dessert on our way back to our hotel. The quality of the food was incredible!

We walked around town and went to bed with the sweet memory of seals and beautiful San Francisco flowers.

The next day, the adventure ended with a relaxing trip back home for the girls and I. Jeanie did not get home until much later because she could not get in our connecting flight, but she had an adventure of her own that day.

Personal reflection and evaluation

In a scale from 0-5, the retreat was a FIVE for me.

The retreat provided the balance and focus I needed to try to work-out some personal issues and gave me clarity on my mission to trust PEACE as the vehicle empowering my service-learning program. Service as a path to peace and stress buster = inner and outter peace.

I hope the foundation will sponsor another retreat next year and I hope Casady is lucky to be asked back one more year. The most memorable times for me were my hours with my home group and the labyrinth experience. The moments that build my capacity to trust "change becomes peace" were the explanations of the projects the Shinnyo fellows were proposing for this academic year. It developed clarity of mission, vision and purpose. The "Be the Peace" and "Six Billion Paths to Peace" cards provided parts of my process.

The only change I would recommend for next year is to allow time for home groups to share what was discussed in age cohort groups. Hearing -our aged-based differences and similarities -is empowering and inspiring.

July 26: Integrating service, peace and spirituality

De-stressing YOGA with Samantha Doak was incredible (, 703-209-5336). During breakfast we found our ride back to San Francisco. Emily's roommate had a car large enough for the 4 of us and our luggage.

After an energizing healthy breakfast, we joined Jeanie's Age Cohort Group to reflect the retreat. Our task was to answer How has the retreat experience been for you so far? What are your thoughts about the value of talking with people from different age groups?

We all wanted to reflect the effect of the labyrinth first. The experiences were similar in the area of connecting to others, but each one of us found an answer or a path to follow to a deep question we were personally searching. It was a conversation that matter!

We were thankful to have had the opportunity to experience the retreat! I liked talking to my same age groups, but I missed the reports to the homegroups of what was discussed in the age cohorts. Last year, hearing the ideas expressed by the different age groups on the same subject areas, were eye-opening, especially from the teenagers point of view.

After a few hours to check-out and place luggage in cars, we gathered to hear Stories of Integrating Service, Peace and Spirituality: Mark and Amal stories were heartbreaking!

In our last home group meeting, we were to create a home group rhythm represntative of our story/experience together. We used a circle, our shoes, walking, the power of silence, our connectivity to each other and nature. Our rhythm was our path to peace. It was a nice way to end our time together.

At lunch, we were families sharing talents. I cannot believe how much I value meals shared with people you enjoy being with. I guess that is for me now a source of joy and a source of pain, for how long? I hope not for ever, but I am still in pain.

It was also hard to say good-bye.

July 25: Peace and Spirituality

I got up really early and walked. Then I went to Yoga with Tori Pinto. I was an envigorating experience.

After daily announcements and sign-up for afternoon activities, we heard the reflections on Peace and Spirituality from a new group of youth, the Shinnyo Fellows. Their projects were: Peace and Healing Counseling Practices: Andre, UC Berkeley "Soul Food for the Activist" Retreat: Peace, Service, and Spirituality Workshops: Farah and Sarah; Men Committed to Serving the Communnity at Seattle University by Gordon, Revolutionary Relationships: 6 Billion Paths to Peace by Samantha; South Central Seattle Neighborhood Celebration: Building Pathways to Peace, by my home group facilitator Sean; After we heard about their projects we went into small groups to help their vision and cause with our experience and resources. I wonder what they will report next year!

The home groups had as a task to explore the relationship between inner peace and efforts to achieve external peace. We did this exploration through art. I discovered how important circles and connectivity with nature are in my spiritual life. I found some peace in the middle of my personal troubles doing this personal art activity. I realized that I have stopped comparing my art to others. Others will have great creativity. If schooled in art and drawing is a passion, theirs will look better, but the essence of this exercise was art as a medium of expressing something not easily expressed with words. This activity took me from "usual communication" (100% attentive, Preparing to React, 100% Reactive) to a dialogue with myself (100% attentive, listening to learn, 100% Inquire)

Lunch was delicious and we were sent to our afternoon activities.

Jeanie and I joined the Ocean Hike which was an adventure on loosing our way and exploration of reflection. As I walked and reflected with Jeanie, I found myself taking pictures of nature scenes that were spiritual and peaceful. The girls went kayaking.

Dinner was nice and I was in the first group to go through the labyrinth. The theme was What was your Spirituality. I discovered that my spirituality is connected to others and nature. I discovered how people I do not even know can take away my peace and others can bring pieces of that peace back to me. How spiritual I am in relation to my home life and how others and nature influence my reactions and actions.

The home group meeting after the labyrinth was the most powerful spiritual, painful and peaceful experience I have had. I realized how connected we are as humans and how we can empowered each other to find our pathway to internal and external peace. It was a memorable experience, too personal to discuss in a reflective pedagogical blog.

I spend many hours talking to my husband on the phone that night. I saw the girls walking to and returning from evening activities. It was an overall peaceful feeling.

Shinnyo-en Retreat July 24: An Adventure in Integrating Meanings and Commections: Theme: Service

I contracted with Marine County Door to Door Transportation (1-415-457-2717). Their van was old, but the driver was nice and we were able to enjoy the road to Marconi Center. We ate at a famous burger place in California: In and Out. The food was not expensive and good. They had veggie burgers for Emily.

I am writing this reflection in the month of September. The picture of the big rock now has even more meaning because Jeanie helped YAC get organized and focused with the story of "placing the BIG ROCKS or most important aspects first in our agendas for meetings and home groups."

Shinnyo-en and Youth Serve California organized the retreat. Jeanie and I shared a room. Sarah and Emily shared the room with adults and teens from other schools and non-profit organizations. Everyone loved their accomodations and roommates.

We arrived so early, we had time to shop and took an exploration walk as a team (the only time we spent together in the two days we were there). Jeanie told stories and we enjoyed and took in the beauty and peacefulness of the Marconi Center.

Registration was similar to last year's, with less pictures and videos because last year was the 10th anniversary of the retreat.

Official Opening: Haru and Liane were not there. That was a big dissapointment. We missed their presence. The retreat was meaningful. Maura thanked the Casady delegation for helping test the BE THE PEACE CARDS which were delivered to participants at the opening. It was nice to know that we were able to help Shinnyo-en in some form. They have been and are so nice to us.

Home Group Meetings After the inspirational opening, we met our home groups. Sarah's facilitators were Henry Lozano and Sammie Sevilla. Jeanie's were Brian Seilstad and Sher Moua. Emily's were Kent Koth and Gordon Graves.

Since I had some personal issues to work out, my facilitators Abby Nathanson and Sean McCreight were perfect. Their spiritually and sense of kindness,connectivity and reflection were incredible. My home group was what I needed to help me work through my personal needs. My goal this year was to be connected to others and ironically others connected to me in a very strong way.

Dinner was incredible as expected from the kitchen of Marconi Center

Age Cohort Meeting 1: We explored the meaning of service to us. Our group was small and we were able to get to know each other rather well. Our task was to answer the question: How have you and your friends used service as a means to support change and work for peace? Answers went from working at the White house to doing pinwheels for peace.

The day ended with open mike: Approaching Service through Music. I was told that it went very well, but I was too tired and went to bed.

Shinnyo-en Retreat: July 23

Traveled with Emily and Sarah. We had a good flight, but getting the assigned complementary taxi from the airport took too much time.

It was nice to see the recycling programs at airports.

We will not stay at the Ramada Inn at the airport anymore. Jeanie arrived early and took a tour of Alcatraz.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Saturday June 27: Final Day of Conference

From Andy Furco's Presentation
Critical reality of service-learning
a. Marginalized practice
b. Poorly understood among teachers and educators
c. Confusion with community service and volunteerism

Community Service/Volunteerism focuses on service and the intended
beneficiary is the recipient of service.

Service-Learning: The primary intended recipient of the service is the
provider of service. It is a win/win reciprocal opportunity When classroom
learning with community based learning = soft service learning

d. Service learning is only indirectly connected to teacher certification.
It has to be direct!

e. Teachers do not use s-l once they are in the field of their content work.

f. Improvements on academic achievement are mixed at best. It does create
the conditions for higher academic achievement. The goal is not to talk
service-learning but how service-learning is the vehicle to academic
achievement. There is a need for greater service-learning leadership in
secondary and elementary grades because there is a global dissatisfaction
with education. Students are bored with schools because classes are
irrelevant to real life. Do not do service learning, help people see service
learning as the vehicle for the "big issues: building an engaged university,
student involvement and participation in community, how service learning is
a vehicle to achieve those goals how it is tied to the bigger issues, the
bigger agenda

Developing leaders for School and Community: The presentation was for their
own reality in developing a leadership component through service learning,
but the practical application of it is how this presentation could change
the structure of YAC. Yac members could assume a role of faculty liaison,
look for community partnerships, resources, be reflectors, logistics and
transportation. Each YAC member for an area of the school they enjoy the

The Villanoba experience with Understanding Diversity is one I would recommend Zainab to explore in combination with a Video contest. Here YAC projects need to develop partnerships with university students to explore a "big issue together." The example was a sucess story with great presentations from the students from Villanoba. Resource: University of PA, Netter Center, conference in June had a model from an Oklahoma University

Get Enganged: Bruger Kaye Presenter

Talk does not cook rice!!! When spiders webbs are tied together, they can trap a lion!!!

Words----Idea-----Action Teachin is political---Create models of change!

In 5-10 words described your service-learning program goal! Empower youth to lead for peace. Then move to another table and circle one word in the person's statement and create a new perspective that helps the first statement. Enable students to ACT in ways that make a difference. Make a difference by helping your neighbor. Was an example

5 minute think tank: Turns all kids into question askers!!!

s (heart) + L(crown) == Peace (world)

Assessment of needs
Use the 4 ways to research

1. Read (any library or internet source)
2. Observe-visit the place, experience the partner
3. Interview: Experts in the community, the need, the goal
4. Survey

Share your quote with a friend
b. One minute think tank
c. Build a theory
d. Define this with a bumper sticker

Friday, June 26

Opening Plenary: Anne Sliwaka was unable to attend. Jake and I heard a panel of speakers that covered IB requirements and the training of the teacher of the future. The messages were to interrogate what we do, how we do it and why we do it. One question was the underlining resut of the panel presentations: How can we produce teachers as agents of change.

Regarding research the questions were: How can the gap between academia and schooling could be bridged? Teachers must read their own work site, instead of having interpretations done entirely by researchers. Schools (teachers, students, parents) should be involved in the research. Schools should not be treated as laboratories. We need to learn from the journey, build resilliance. It is hard work and we must have the disposition to stick to it because it is good for the kids. We must not be afraid of failure. Failure is a learning experience too, the real failure is not having a learning experience.

Casady Presentation Children's Land: The kids did a fantastic job reflecting and presenting their experience. As a consequence of the presentation and networking during the conference, we have connected to a reflection researcher in Galway who recommended to read Reflections on the Courage to Teach.

Mac had to change clothing and we missed lunch with the conference. We went to the Spud Town and had lunch there. Then we returned to the conference.

Does Service-Learning Aid retention? Look at the experiential learning process. It is important to have structure: 3 people building reciprocal relationships. Questions: What is going to be the potential problem? How can it be overcome with collaboration, ownership and a minimum of three people who will be working on the project. What is the need that has to be filled in the community, the students, and the other collaborating parters.

Affinity group: Research: Learned about the research that is being done in service-learning

Conference Dinner at the Radisson Hotel: lovely!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

June 25: Second International Service-Learning Conference in Teacher Education

Mac went with the Halls sightseeing. They will be gone after the presentation tomorrow. I left messages at Jake's hotel, but he is not in Galway yet.

Conference Registration: At registration, it seemed like less than 50 people would attend. By 3:00 p.m. we had about 60, others would be arriving the next day. The conference had about 100 participants, mostly researchers and teacher trainers representing 6 continents. The new home of the conference next year, possibly the USA-Duke University!!!

Welcome: Galway and the CKI (Community Knowledge Interactive) 10 year plan: All students at the National University of Ireland, Galway will be involved in social solidarity. Service-Learning is part of their strategic plan. Value of service learning: Development of social skills, problem solving, ability to ask the right questions: Development of soft skills!!!

World Cafe: Hosting guidelines at The trainers were Don Hill and Cathy Burger Kaye. The directions were very simple. Answer a question given by the facilitators. Share time so everyone talks. Draw, write, doodle, etc on the paper provided. Members of the table will rotate to another table. One member stays to explain discussion to the new group and start another conversation that matter. 15 minutes per topic area.
How does service-learning contribute to Global Citizenship? How can it be expanded from awareness to action? What is the future of service-learning.

During the debriefing of the World Cafe process and how it could be applicable to our environments, we were broken into pairs to bring about a final questions to be posed at a World Cafe in our environments. We were allow 1 minute to come up with that question. My partner and I decided: How can we move people-students, teachers, parents, administration from the idealogogy of "having to do service" to wanting to do it?.

Personal debriefing: I think we could use this technique to teach people how to ask good questions, how to listen and give them pointers on how to summarize different people's point of view.

Opening Plenary: Tom Collins The University and the community, an evolving relationship> It was the most imspirational speaker of the conference. Dr. Collins said that we are living a moment of transformation where the teachers do not share the nanosecond mentally of the students. He questioned how do we live with each other now? How do we agree to share the Island of Galway, OUR PLANET?.

He said people are basically good and quoted Cale Rogers work as teacher's task being to enable people to become their capabilities. The knowledge society is not driven by content. He mentioned emotional intelligence and building capacity in the individual and the community.

How do we view community
1. Unimportant: All learning happens in the classroom
2. Laboratory: a testing site
3. Benefitiary: Student teachers make a contribution
4. Client: We go and fix things
5. Skeptic: University an intruder, irrelevant: manipulative, paternalistic, secretive
6. Resource: Valuable are of learning
7. Partner: Resolving issues together and from each others' perspective and need. TRUST is what is needed most!

Three types of teachers:
1. Loves the subject
2. Loves kids
3. Loves himself or herself

Children must have opportunity to learn outside the subject, test the knowledge of the subject. The challenge is to be child center and reflect and help them acquire the critical skills needed in this new society.

Carmen Clay's Home Groups: Katherine Bates and I have a hard time remembering names. I would like the group to know I am trying to become a better listener. K. Firece is enthusiastic. G.M Moses was enhancing critiques of his practice, Ken Symonds loves teaching and learning, Suzanne Rocheham is curious and Jean Strait has written a book about the future of service learning. My group's burning questions were:
1. How can we build the research capacity in the international community?
2. How can we make service-learning lesson planning more useful in the classroom?
3. How can be make service-learning acroos three level disciplines more focused on students developing a political consciousness- and wanting to change the world?
4. How can teacher education as a discipline more effectively integrate service-learning as a pedagogy?
5. How does higher education strenghten partnerships with k-12 in service-learning?
6. How can service-learning become an intrinsic value for students and faculty?

Barbeque: Kendall and Mac attended the barbeque after having spent the day sightseeing. Jake was not in Galway yet.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Second International Service-Learning Conference in Teacher Education

June 22-24: After a long flight we arrived to the Corrib Village, school housing. It is clean, students work during the summer turning the school into an international learning center. There are students from all over the world studying from 2-6 weeks.

The rooms are stoic and clean. Bathrooms are shared by three rooms. The location of ours is convenient. Sometimes the rooms are hot, but the weather has been so nice that we cannot complain. Locals tell us that we brought good weather with us. This is not typical. It is supposed to be good until we leave.

The breakfast is continental. The registration office is in the hands oollege students working during the summer months.

Even without phone service, I was able to connect with parents via registration office. We purchased Internet for E10 for a whole week. Mac really liked having the computer at the room. I could not get into the Casady Website for a couple of days and my communication home after the arrived never got home.

Today is the 24th. After recuperating from 72 hours without sleep, Mack was feeling better today. The Halls picked her up in the morning and she went to Ashford Castle, the most expensive hotel in Ireland. I had to meet with the conference organizers so I met them for dinner. Mr. and Mrs. Hall took us to dinner to McDonaugh's. Great seafood, the best I have had in a long time.

I met the conference team after I met Patricia Walsh and Kym O'Reilly ( They gave me the conference program and asked me to consider having summer school in their campus. The arrange location of classes, but our own teachers come to teach the courses. There are sports and recreation instructors available for soccer, rowing, fishing, hiking. Photography, art, European History might be options. I will bring this request to the attention of the summer school organizers.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22: Return Home

We left the hotel at 5:20 a.m. We were being nicer and more considerate of each other. At the airport, Cassidy asked the group to reflect through the arts. We will share drawings at Casady.

I read the books Emily asked to buy on board of plane. The books are very difficult because there is a lot of pain in the post cards. According to the author the release has helped many people. I am emotionally drained by them and I think this needs to be handled in collaboration with Dr. Moore and Father Blizzard. I gave the books to Dr. Moore. Emily needs to talk to Dr. Moore also. As a result of reading the books, I want to be a better listener. Work harder in my personal relationships and make sure no one feels unwanted or isolated around me. Using the analogy given during the conference by Shinnyoen, I want people to be in the green zone and to reduce stress.

Nasville 2009 was a great group. It is ironic but we were kinder and more considerate of each other because of the painful books.

We decided that change is needed to improve our facilitation of information and to make YAC's work become RELEVANT, ENGAGING, AND WITH more CHOICES. A way of introducing information like what in elementary grades is called "an emerging curriculum." If each one of the kids who went to Nashville trains a volunteer youth, I think we are ready to empower change to become peace with insightful, capable and caring people.

I look forward to the reflection drawings and the final reflections, one led by me during the YAC meeting with a small amount of time because Kaija has to update everyone on National Volunteer Week (She does not want chapel presentations then because she wants community organizations where we have worked with pictures in the background of the presentation) She is doing a wonderful job creating a celebratory atmosphere for the week without much funding and great ideas. And the last one in front of Mr. Bright led by Rose.

On Friday, March 27, Rose will reflect us in front of Mr. Bright, Dr. Moore, and Mr. Pena.

Saturday, March 21: Last Day of the Conference

HOPE WALKS: Emily and Rose slept late. Cassidy, Sasha and I participated in the Hope Walk. As we walked to raise awareness of the AIDS Epidemic, I realized how well organized and how simple this walk was. I will suggest the Walk the World leaders this year to follow the format and process given by this walk.

The plenary was amazing. Haru started with a speech about the Paths to Peace. Another speaker of note for me was Richard Love who called to save children from Nature Deficit Disorder, but the greatest highlight was the Drum Cafe. They had 1,000 drums there and they taught us how to beat as one. It was energizing and fun.

The whole group supported Mary Rogers and the Pennsylvania kids. We attended Water Flowing Across the Curriculum. They were very well prepared and made a clear demonstration of curricular connections with this growing global need. Dave Milton had told the kids that his presentation would be boring and not to attend. I attended the Climate Change presentation and it was wonderful. My group would not have had any problem understanding it. Since everyone was tired, they spent time building relationships and resting to be fresh for the Gathering of the Elders. Robert wants to bring that format to school for students to get to know teachers at the retreat and maybe have a special assembly with a gathering of the elders.

Emily reflected us at the Pizza restaurant and then she showed us a brief video of the Post Secrets. After an emotional discussion, we went to bed.

Friday, March 20: Third Day of the Conference

The plenary session was powerful. Dr. James Hildreth talked about the HIV Epidemic and called everyone to action. Ms Elisabeth Hoodles gave a great presentation on the United Kingdom's Service initiatives. Up with People entretained.

I spent the whole day with William at the Project Ignition Summitt. In the afternoon, we went site seeing and we bought the book of Post Secrets

In the morning students went to different workshops. In the afternoon, they went to Paths to Peace and enjoy the presentation,but they also brought a desire to purchase a book they had seen Post Secrets.

In the evening, we went to the project Ignition Party. The girls enjoyed dancing with the kids from Pennsylvania. Robert, William and I met with Dave Milton from Facing the Future. It was very interesting to talk to him. Rose and Emily had foot problems and they took us back to the hotel in a taxi.

William led us in reflection with great ease. He is a very good facilitator too.

Thursday: March 19: Second Day:

The plenary featured Peter Benson from the Search Institute who helped us see how much of an asset builder service-learning is for youth. Paul Houston related his life story as a kid who could not read to a published author. Cassidy was looking forward to Lisa Frank and the change she made in her school through service-learning.

Everyone went to different workshops. Casady and Sasha went to Lisa Frank's Forum, So you Think you want to make Change Then the group went site seeing.

I went with William to Project Ignition presentation because William wanted to explore this project for Casady. He got into this project motivated by the competition of getting free stuff and a free dinner. We heard the stories of the participating high schools in the contest for $10,000.

In the afternoon, I went to Being What You Want, Teaching Who You Are and learned about the reactions of the brain to stress and how to create a more relaxed environment for my students by making sure that we are away from the red zone and into the green zone through breathing. It was an amazing presentation. I bought the book of the presenter, called Being.

After the workshop,Maura, Mary and Nan gave me suggestions about the retreat. They think we are trying to do too much, too quickly and the retreat should be divided into parts for teachers and parts for students. Robert came and gave his perspective and we concluded that Maura should talk to Mr. Bright to add his perspective.

Students went to Star Power, an interactive simulation of the achievement gap.

We went to dinner with the people from Pennsylvania and Robert reflected us. The conversation ended-up in addressing the differences between public and private schools based on the Food they serve. Very interesting.

Wednesday, March 18: Creating a Cadre of Youth Facilitators

March 18: All of us except Robert attended this pre-conference workshop. Robert was with parents visiting Vanderbilt.

The trainers did an excellent job using Power Point with interactive games and activities to teach and get the group involved. There was a lot of pre-preparation.

We were also part of the group's problem solving because they had lost their computer. Also their binders for us did not arrive until the last day.

After getting to know who was in the audience with a game using a ball with questions in it, they asked to compare best and worst workshops and what made them successful. They also asked to tell the difference between presenting and facilitating on big post-it notes with ideas coming from small post-it notes. There were two facilitators per table overseeing the needs of the table. If we plan for 100 people at the gym, we will need 10 tables with 2 facilitators looking at the needs of every table. They had a great number of crayolas, small post-it notes, toys to play for the bodily-kinesthetic, candy to munch and a lot of water to drink.

They taught us that facilitating is as easy as PIE (Preparation, Implementation and Evaluation.)

To grab the attention of the participants, they taught us that facilitation must be REC (Relevant, Engaging,and with Choices) The facilitator should also have in mind to combine feedback, novelty, movement, water, humor, and music.

Then, they helped us find our multiple intelligences. They used a test that did not take in account the foundational intelligence. I should make my own from the one at the Internet. I must remember to ask permission to use it.

To keep people interested in the training, they suggested techniques such as brainstorming, brain writing, card posting, case study, dramatic skit, working in pairs, teaching each other, fishbowl (group on group activity. They used all of them. We found more in the binder. Finally, they taught us about the 4 elements of service learning, the standards of best practices, and reflection interactively. They divided us into groups and gave us scenarios of volunteerism, community service and service-learning.

They used similar technique for the standards of service-learning which have been revised. (Curriculum Integration, Youth Voice, Diversity, Meaningful Service, Duration and Intensity, Cognitively Challenging Reflection, Progress Monitoring, Reciprocal Partnerships

As I reviewed the training the following ideas are emerging for the Fresh Start Retreat, which I think should be handled mostly by Casady YAC and willing facilitators representing the four houses available in August 1.


1. Opening: Getting to know each other: We could use the Shinnyoen's way of self reflecting. Then, have them share with the person next to them to use the engaging part. We must have 10 people taking pictures one at each table and getting the pictures developed inmediatly to add them to the profile.

To use movement, the name tags should have numbers from 1-20. We will go outside, weather permiting or stay inside and create 5 circles with inner and outer circles. Numers 1-10 will be the outer circle and numbers 11-20 will be the inner circle. As they stand, each person will receive a card from the table facilitator. After introductions, the outer circle will stay in place and the inner circle will rotate to the right. Instructions will be given by the table facilitators to avoid shouting. The questions should help participants smile, have happy feelings and find a personal ability. As they come back, we will take a few minutes for people to share.

2. Low Ropes Course and Blind Trust Walk at Camp Fire USA

3. Colors Test or Multiple Intelligences: The person we hire will provide the colors test and facilitators will be able to participate in this too. If we do not have money, we could use the MI Inventory and make beaded bracelet with it. Every person will have a bracelet that reminds them of their strenghts and weakneses.

4. Introduction of Service-Learning: Art Activity PARC Hand: Student Voice (Who?, What?, Where?, When?, Why?, How?)and Roots of Service Tree with positive values and people and/or institutions helping those values. We call our program community service-learning because we ask students to own their projects based on meeting a community need with their interest, talent and academic preparation.


1. Site Visits: Community need assessment. 6 buses, 2 sites per bus with 25 people each: Infants, Toddlers and Children (direct service) (Infant Crisis Services, Boys and Girls Club), Animals (Animal Shelter-Humane Society), Elderly (direct service) (Independent Living Facility-Assisted Living Facility-Nursing Home: Vineyard and Canterbury), City Renewal (Habitat for Humanity-Rebuilding Together) The disable (Special Care-The Medows), Poverty Advocacy (The Food Bank, World Neighbors), Research and advocacy for the Environment (Department of Environmental Education - Recycling Centers)

2. Reports from Site Visits. Decision making: Groups divide in 1/2 to work on sites. Bus transportation provided to and from Casady


1. Service on sites
2. Celebration: Brunch by 9th grade mothers and Gathering of the Elders: 9th grade Advisors and Teachers to speak about their experience when they were between 13-18 years of age and to share advise to make the 9th grade as stress free as possible.
3. Reflection led by YAC Artist: Make a drawing of a lasting memory of the retreat and explain why.

Sasha was the first to reflect the group and she did a wonderful job.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17 and early morning 18: Traveling Log

I am amazed at how fast communication is now between parents and teens as well as teens themselves. Before I thought about asking the question, they already had the answers. At the airport, teens texting and on the phone were as common as breathing. I could not help but think how much mass communication has changed the way we live.

The flights were good and everyone was on time and ready to start the adventure.

At the airport, I brainstormed rules of interaction and asked them to share the speaker they were looking forward to hearing. We will be observing the buddy system, checking in by phone if any changes are made, trying to keep the given schedule. The goal is to keep everyone informed and safe. I also told them that that there is an expectation to be prepared for a chapel talk after we come back and that credit will be given for reflection. Reflection must be done on a daily basis. Our last item of discussion was: Robert is our youth leader and facilitator of the conference, but we will keep him aware of what the group wants to do and everyone can afford. He is the final decision maker, but activities have to have group concensus.

After our arrival to the airport, Robert drove us to the Hard Rock Cafe where William and his parents met us. Everyone seemed to have a good time at dinner.

During our walk to the hotel, we observed Saint Patrick's Day celebrations in a college town.

Robert visited Vanderbilt and William joined us in the pre-conference workshop, Creating a Cadre of Youth Facilitators in the morning.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Heading to Nashville

Hope this will be a good conference.