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To Read Is To Grow: Literacy in Cuba

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

I was very fortunate to have spent eight days of my spring break in Cuba!

Americans still need a reason (other than pure tourism) to be allowed to visit Cuba, and  I went on an educational research tour, during which we visited schools, clinics and the Cuban Literacy Museum in Havana.

“To Read Is To Grow”

The Cuban people place a high value on education, and Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

At the Literacy Museum, we learned about the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961, which enlisted “each person who could read to teach one person who could not read,” and which raised the national literacy rate from about 65% to 96%.

I feel passionately about one-on-one education as a source of empowerment and connection for both learner and teacher, so I was greatly moved to see tutoring having been implemented on such a grand scale and having had the effect of forming bonds between people from different backgrounds and geographic areas.

“Before 1959 it was the countryside versus the city. The literacy campaign united the country because, for the first time, people from the city understood how hard life was for people before the revolution, that they survived on their own, and that as people they had much in common. This was very important for the new government.”- Luisa Yara Campos, Cuban literacy museum director

I also believe that all people should be lifetime teachers and learners, so I admired that the Cuban literacy initiative enlisted all kinds of people, especially young people with little to no formal teacher training, to become instructors, and that anyone, regardless of age, gender or profession, was given the opportunity to learn to read.

Here are two pictures of photographs on display in the literacy museum:

Literacy tutors carry lanterns in order to teach in rural homes without electricity .


The Teenage Brain is Primed for Learning

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Pantheon & Pompidou Centre 2 18 2011 053What was he thinking?

Is there a parent out there who can’t relate to the first sentence of The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen, MD?

She’s a neuroscientist specializing in adolescent brain development and the mother of two teenage boys, and her book is “a survival guide” full of important information about how brains develop, what’s going on inside the skulls of adolescents, and what this means for how we parent and educate our teens and young adults.

I’ve just started reading this book, and here are a few of the nuggets I’ve already discovered:


The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Middle School Math

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Many middle school students struggle with math, often for the first time.

Math becomes harder in middle school, and teacher expectations are higher. These changes are appropriate as kids mature; the achievement bar must be raised so that students’ intellects are challenged to grow. The teacher who waters down instruction so that it’s always easy and “fun” isn’t doing students any favors.


Perfect for a Snow Day: ACT/SAT/ Math Review

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

cats in the snow  Jan 27 2011 012Many students will be taking the ACT or the make-up SAT this coming Saturday, February 7, and today’s snow day is a wonderful opportunity for kids to do some prep work.

There’s lots of test prep material online; here are some of my favorites:


ADHD Types I and II?

Monday, January 26th, 2015

IMG_0110One of my students included this very interesting 9-minute TED talk in a psychology class project.

The speaker proposes that, as with diabetes, there are now arguably two forms of ADHD. We could call the inborn variety ADHD Type I; Type II would be what one doctor calls “Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder”, developed through excessive Internet use.


The Wisdom to Know the Difference (Day Twelve: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Monday, January 12th, 2015

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.PC250048

-The Serenity Prayer

I like Victorian-era cemeteries, and whenever I visit one the Serenity Prayer enters my mind.

In those days there was no cure for tuberculosis, which was romantically called “consumption” and which along with other infectious diseases filled the churchyards and necessitated the creation of vast new burying grounds.

Victorian cemeteries were intended as parks where families could picnic and visit their departed loved ones on Sunday afternoons.


The Key to Happiness is Becoming a Lower Maintenance Person (Day Eleven: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

P7170168Because attention, time, and energy are all limited resources, scaling down and living a high-quality yet low-maintenance life is really the way to maximize contentment and minimize stress.


It’s Best to Face Your Fears and Let Your Kids Face Their Fears, Too (Day Ten: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

P6300072To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. -Pema Chodron

Is there anything more painful than watching your child suffer? But when we shield our kids from the lumps Life dishes out, we rob them of the critical growing-up experiences that will make them into strong, brave, confident adults later.


Relationships Are Not Mysterious or Impossible; They’re Just Really Complicated (Day Eight: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

P8010076If you love her, support her.

-Randy Pausch

Love may seem magical, whimsical, steered by the forces of fate, timing and chemistry…but, in fact, love thrives when people behave well towards one another and withers when they treat one another badly. (Duh!!)


It’s Great to NOT Be Special (Day Six: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

P6290031As you get older, you may find that enabling the dreams of others is even more fun. -Randy Pausch

I’m part of that generation of women who were told we could have it all and actually believed it.


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