Two stories for one same day.

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Oil by Delilah Smith It’s my birthday.

The day of your birthday

Birthdays have always been one of the most awkward and hard-to-get situations for me. I’ve had this feeling as if there were some sort of detail about them that I haven’t grasped to be able to enjoy them. I’ve lived all these years thinking that there’s something special I should feel that I don’t, and as if there were an attitude which the rest are supposed to see in me.  Something I fail to be up to the expectation. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

They are ideas and feelings that allow us to live a perfectly conventional life without much trouble, but they remain, notorious, clinged to our souls as coffee dregs to the bottom of a cup.

When I read Eleven, Sandra Cisneros’ insightful story, a feeling of satisfaction filled my heart, not out of birthdays, but out of the existence of literary works that can shed lights, shake cores or celebrate where there’s hardly any joy to do it. This brief story that is told through a girl on her eleventh birthday, is simply marvelous, because of -among other things- its perspective and because of the naivety of its humor.

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A different type of connection

This time dear reader, I will not start the post talking about a book, I will end up talking about one. A very old but very special one that had a profound impact in my life, not because of its content but because of the story behind it. The thread that makes the connection between the following two sories is the impact that a teacher’s expectations may have on us.

The successful comedian
I usually watch Jimmy Fallon’s show. For the ones who are unfamiliar with it, it’s an American TV talk show that airs in public television late at night. He invites celebrities as well as people from music or art industry who show a lot of talent and are just taking off. The show has a relaxed, funny and creative profile which makes a good watch after a long working day.

A few weeks ago, a young stand-up comedian came to the show. His name is Josh Johnson. He is a 26 year old man who has already made a name for himself in the field apart from being finalist or winning in important contests of the comedy scene. After he did his stand-up in the show, he sat down with Mr. Fallon to talk about him and his career as every single guest does. But what happened next was unexpectedly cute, heartwarming and priceless for the audience and for the parties involved.

-The host of the show:You brought someone special with you tonight

-Josh Johnson: Yeah, My high school teacher is here. The first time I ever did stand up for the High School talent show, he was like…”I’m gonna see you on the Tonight Show one day”, so I flew him out to make sure he could see it! Mr Ward!

(While Mr Ward waves proudly and visibly moved from the audience of the show who is gasping in awe)

-The host of the show: Hey Mr. Ward! He made it!

Here is the link if you’d like to watch it.

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It was such a great moment, maybe it was 15 or 20 seconds on TV, but it showed so much about those two human beings. How encouraging and meaningful the words of a teacher may be for a student who is timidly starting to show his skills (that may have nothing to do the subject he teaches.) How alert a teacher can be to the potential talents of a person who happens to be his student. On the hand,  it also shows how powerful it is for a young person that somebody believes in us. And ultimately, it demonstrates how you can be very successful in whatever area without forgetting your uncertain beginnings.

So, if you are wondering what this “anecdote” have to do with the book I mentioned in the beginning, here’s the other story.

A seventy-year old book with a valid lesson.

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This TEXTO UNICO (sole textbook) from 5th grade was used in Uruguayan Primary schools from the 1940’s at the time my father was a kid. It was a book that covered several subjects from the curricula of that time. My dad has kept it as a treasure all his life and when he told me why, I kept the story as a valued treasure all mine.

The thing is, my dad never got to 5th grade at school. He got to 4th grade, which was the only possibility students from certain remote rural areas of Uruguay had at that time. If they wanted to continue studying, they had to go to the town schools which was out of the question considering not only the financial situation but also the geographical one. Far from everything, it was an ordeal sometimes to even arrive at school every morning. Plus, his mom knew that it was important that the 4 boys of the house had a basic education, but the economical situation of a family–torn by the untimely death of the father–called for other pressing duties: work to fulfill basic needs.

So, why did he end up carrying this book all his life, feeling proud about it?
Because his 4th grade teacher, smartly aware that these very few kids (they were fewer than 10 in the whole school) at this remote rural school would not be able to continue their formal education, insisted that they bought the textbook to “continue studying and acquiring important concepts that will be useful for your life”, but on their own. So, what happened was that the teacher was so persuasive, that my dad convinced his mother to buy him the book. He got the money, two pesos at that time, so that the teacher could buy it in the capital city of the country, almost 200 hundred kilometers away from the school, but the only place where it could be found.

Even at that young age, my dad had such appreciation for his teacher’s interest in their future learning and in their preparation for life, that he felt he had to be up to the task. He got his book, wrote his name on it and started reading it subject by subject after the school term had ended that year. When a couple of years later, at the age of 12 he had to leave home to work on his own, in a farm for just a few pennies and food and lodging, guess what he packed in his small humble trunk? The 5th grade textbook. The one he read –he told me–every night before going to bed. So, from geographical features of his country to historical events, to science facts about plants and animals, he could feel he was still learning “important concepts useful for life

Many years after, and many jobs after, when he was a factory worker in the city and he could afford to get married, have his home and start a family, his pride was to buy his only daughter books. So, by this time, you can see what is one of the biggest connections in my entire life and why books are so meaningful to me.

Two stories, one idea: The profound impact that an alert, assertive comment from a respected adult can have on our entire lives, does not cease to amaze me. It has revealed to me not only significant connections but the responsibility we have in our role as teachers.

I wish you a lot significant connections in and for your life, with or without book. The magic happens anyway!

Quiet and powerful awareness

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If you have felt awkward your entire life sensing that somehow there’s something wrong with you because you’d rather stay curled up at your living room sofa on a Saturday night with a cup of tea and a good book than dress up, go out and have some some drinks with a group of friends at a fancy, loud bar, well, let me tell you Quiet has been written for you, as I felt it was written for me. Many others are claiming the same and feeling quite good about.

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The artist as a warrior

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The war of art by Steven Pressfield centers on an old topic in a very original way. Don’t we all have those projects that have come to naught? Like a more spiritual life, a career in sports, a business venture, writing a book?

Pressfield  says that we all have ” an unlived  life within us.” Between this life and the one that we live daily is where  Resistance is. There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t. And that secret is: it’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” He identifies Resistance as a force that doesn’t allow us to get where we really want to. The whole first part of the book is used to define it. Invisible, implacable, insidous, universal and fueled by our fears are only some of the characteristics that the author uses to identify it. In this way, he gives shape to a feeling that might have had many times when trying to materialize our creative impulses.

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The power of finding your Element

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I generally don’t read books twice for the very simple reason that although I read a lot, I’m quite slow. So, by the time I finish reading something, my pile of to-be-read had increased and I’m anxious to continue with the next one. The Element by Ken Robinson was an exception. I had to re read it because the first time I did, this book captivated my attention so much that I didn’t even make my usual highlighting of important ideas. Every idea was relevant. It hooked me and moved me so much that I wanted to shout the world: stop whatever you are doing, sit down and read it. It might transform your life no matter your age.
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Educating teachers

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PSICOEDUCAR 1 

I’ve known Dr. Ariel Gold from the many workshops and courses he’s been teaching for a long time. As a child psychiatrist, he’s always been committed to education and  cooperation with teachers to enlighten their task in an informed and assertive way. This book Psicoeducar 1,* which he writes together with Lic. Alicia Gomez is the outcome of more than 15 years of tireless dedication to empowering educators.

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A must read: Carol Dweck’s Mindset

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We all know people from school or from our teenage years that were extremely talented in their studies or in a sport and we probably sighed at the dream of “oh if I were as clever as she is”. However, when we run into them 10 or 15 years later, we found out that they dropped out of college or that they quit their swimming or maybe if they didn’t quit, they didn’t reach the standard of professionalism that everybody envisioned for them when were flourishing. In the same way, we might encounter the classmate that had a mediocre performance at school and wow! We found out he is founder and president of a thriving company. What happened?

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Show your work!

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“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” John Cleese’s opening quote says a lot about Austin Kleon’s  book Show your work!  I have been subscribed to Austin’s newsletter for a while and I can tell you, I’ve learned a lot from him. That’s why when I had the chance I bought this, his latest book.

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