Wednesday, October 02, 2019

What I Learned in September

September began normally in Haiti and ended abnormally. We had two weeks of regular school before strikes and protests erupted again and sent us into lockdown for most of the last two weeks of the month.

In addition to learning more about surviving at home for days at a time and attempting to instruct my students over the internet, I also gained knowledge in a few other areas in September.

Here's an interesting article on the benefits of teaching work by living writers. I'm not sure my students give too much thought to who wrote the work they read, but I try to follow this advice when I can. I've had writers visit my classes, shown videos of interviews with writers, and shared my own work with my students. I also try to read pieces written by people their age whenever I can. You hear a lot about the benefits of talking to authors over Skype, but more and more authors are charging for this, and while I understand their need to earn a living, I don't have the resources to welcome them in.

In September I continued to pursue more knowledge of birds. And there was plenty of knowledge out there, as a groundbreaking and heartbreaking study came out this month detailing how the population of birds in North America has decreased by over 3 billion in the last fifty years.  Other bird-related things I learned: songbirds are being taken from the forests around Miami for various reasons explained in the article; house sparrows have successfully become city-dwellers around the world because they can digest gluten (bonus: I learned to identify house sparrows that live on our campus); and many fascinating facts about Audubon in this article (I've mentioned before that Audubon was born in Haiti, and this essay explores how he saw himself and how his mixed-race identity affected him - it's so interesting). On the subject of Audubon, I continued to read John James Audubon: The Making of an American, by Richard Rhodes. I'll have a complete review of that as soon as I'm done. I also learned to identify a palmchat in my yard. Palmchats are the official birds of the Dominican Republic, and they are beautiful and noisy.

I read this article recommending books to read about the earth and climate change. While I've read some of the authors mentioned, I haven't read any of these books. 

This article is about the glories of tomatoes and the tomato season, which was a bit late this year. I loved the article, and agreed with its fulsome praise of tomatoes, but then was soon saddened to learn that its source, The Atlantic, would soon become less accessible, because the magazine is finally putting up a paywall. Oh, Atlantic, how I have enjoyed reading your articles for free! How sad I am to have to start rationing that pleasure just like I already ration my enjoyment of The New York Times, The New Yorker, and many other publications. Again, I understand why you have to make a living, but I also have to make a living and can't spend my entire salary on the privilege of reading everything there is on the internet (much as I'd like to). 

I don't think The Paris Review has a paywall yet, and I read some wonderful articles there this month. Here are two: "For the Love of Orange," "The Currency of Tears."

"School is Not Supposed to Be Fun All the Time", argues this article.  I want to discuss it with my colleagues (and will, just as soon as I can get back to school and get some of them to read it). 

I won't list lots of articles on the current situation in Haiti, but this one (in French) is especially sad because it describes how the current round of protests started on the third day of the Haitian school year (since our school is on an American calendar, we start several weeks earlier). 

I listened to many podcasts as I sat at home for the last couple of weeks of the month, and this one was especially interesting. Jonathan Martin interviews Brad Jersak. After I listened to it, I asked my husband to listen to it with me, and we're going to order Jersak's latest book so we can learn more. In addition to podcasts, I was grateful for fairly reliable internet and for Netflix. Many of my expat friends, however, were sharing this article from Christianity Today about how maybe having access to so much media from our passport countries can keep us from fully engaging in the cultures where we live. I can see the argument; it reminds me of the reason parents weren't allowed to visit us in boarding school. It's hard to adjust to a place or a situation when you are constantly distracted from it. It's a balance everyone has to find, and it's nothing new, but the internet certainly ramps it up. I for one am not going to complain about the opportunity to escape for a little while from the current situation into media, whether books or magazines, movies or podcasts. 

What did you learn in September? What should I read or pay attention to? What are your thoughts on the links I've posted?


Jane @ said...

I looked up what's been going on in Haiti after reading your post, the media here has been giving it so little coverage. Here's wishing you, your family, your students, and everyone, really, safety and comfort, and God willing a return to some sort of normalcy in this crazy, crazy world.

laurasalas said...

Oh, Ruth, thank you for sharing the things you learn, and for sharing yourself with your students. it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the world sometimes, but your optimism and persistence are inspiring!