Thursday, November 25, 2010

Teaching Thanks-giving: November 25, 2010

As Pete and I were planning English classes for this week, we thought we would incorporate some teaching about Thanksgiving into the curriculum. Pete suggested that we find readings for our students about the holiday. I thought this was a good idea, as it would allow our students the opportunity to practice reading English, which we don’t have them do very often (especially since we do not follow a specific textbook or workbook.) Yesterday, I searched on the internet for easy-to-read (early elementary level) readings about Thanksgiving and was met with a challenge. Most of the readings were too difficult for our students’ English reading level. Most of them were also about the pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a big feast. I don’t quite buy into the story of Thanksgiving as it is often told and I didn’t feel it was worth my time or energy to explain the “traditional Thanksgiving story” and how it was problematic. That’s hard enough to explain to kids who have grown up celebrating Thanksgiving. These kids knew nothing about the holiday, so I came to the conclusion that I would just teach about the aspects of the holiday that are important to me: essentially, the idea of giving thanks, gathering with loved ones, and food! By the way, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so it is easy for me to transmit my enthusiasm about it to others. 
Per Pete’s suggestion, for my high school students yesterday evening, I decided to write a paragraph about the holiday on the board and have them write it down in their notebooks. We then took turns reading the sentences aloud. Here is what they wrote: 
“Thanksgiving is a holiday that is celebrated in the USA. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest season. People celebrate this holiday by gathering with their families and friends to eat a lot of food. Traditional Thanksgiving foods are turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. On this holiday, people give thanks for the blessings in their lives.”
At the end, I had them write, “I am thankful for: 1)...2)...3)...” and we each named three things that we’re thankful for. I led the same activity with my 4th and 5th graders this morning, although they wrote a simpler version of the paragraph above. 
Ultimately, giving thanks is the essence of Thanksgiving and that is what I ended up sharing with my students. 
Now for some personal reflections about what I am thankful for this year, at this moment. 
I am thankful that...
-we have purified water to drink. We recently discovered that we can buy the large 20 liter returnable jugs of water at the nearby corner store, which we put into our water dispenser for easy-access safe water. Before, we had been walking a few blocks away to Wal-Mart a few times a week to get 10 liter jugs of water. Now, our purified water lasts longer, the jugs are re-used, and we get to support the local corner store when buying water, rather than Wal-Mart. 
-my stomach has been healthy for a while. Following my two experiences with different versions of stomach illnesses during my first 3 weeks here, I have been relatively healthy, with my stomach and otherwise. Hallelujah!
-I am here with Pete. Pete is family. I cannot imagine living and serving at the Casa without Pete. The past two-and-a-half months have been so incredibly rich for each of us personally, and have allowed us to grow in our relationship as a couple. For one thing, we have time with one another, which is a huge blessing, especially after the crazy busy year we both experienced last year. The time we share this year is particularly special given that this is the year in which we are preparing to be married. Embarking on this experience of living and serving in a new environment together has allowed us many opportunities to see deeper into the way the other handles challenges, communicates across language and culture, and interacts with children of all ages; moreover, this experience gives us the chance to support each other through all of that. 
-we are able to live at the Casa “salary-free” for 8 months. Volunteering (at least in the way that we are) is a privilege that I realize not everyone is in the position to do. I am thankful for the window of opportunity in our lives to take time to do this and for the fact that we have minimal financial burdens, which also allows us to take advantage of this service opportunity. 

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