Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday, Holy Friday

A day of reflection. Time to ponder that Christ Jesus would be willing to be unfairly judged, scourged, ridiculed, humiliated, hurt, and hung from a cross for us(If you want to know what he was thinking while on the Cross, read Psalm 22). He was willing to give himself to cruel and sinful men so we can know Him personally and enjoy eternal life, but also to have life more abundantly now. We don't have to wait till heaven to know he intervenes in our lives today. Helping us reconcile with each other, helping us to forgive each other and even ourselves daily. He listens to our conversations with Him and He answers in incredible ways! He is not an out there mystical God though He is omnipresent (in all places), omnipotent (all mighty), and omniscient (all knowing) God, but He is also friend and Savior.

He made all the difference for me on a day like today. Good Friday, Holy Friday. Blessed be His Name! Jesus. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Unashamedly a Christian. If I am ever persecuted for my faith, I hope there is enough evidence to convict me of being a Christian.

By the way they are giving a Jim Caviezel Special, with the actor who portrayed Christ in the film, The Passion of the Christ, tonight Friday, April 2, 2010 on TBN You can see it through web streaming if you don't get TBN at home. They have an application you can download or simply click view now to see the programs live.

You can also see a short snippet of a theatrical group in England taking Jesus to London.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Typical yet Unusual




I am going to start with the last picture which is a typical coconut limber made at home by my sister in law. In one word: delicious, and our solution to a hot day.

The next two are of a huge calabaza, a squash. Not unusual at first glance but look at the size of this one! It weighed more than 25 pounds and much larger than my sister's refrigerator, so it had to be shared generously. Yes, I splurged big time! It was actually fun to find a lot of people to whom to give some away. The stranger part of the story is not the squash itself but how I got it.

I was with my sister in law and my nephew when we stopped to buy some calabaza which is always so good in beans or habichuelas as we call them. So we stopped at a fruit stand in Bayamon on our way to visit my mother. There was a van in front of us and in front of them two motor cyclists. The van pulled away and we debated if to buy anything since the man didn't want to cut the pumpkin since he had offered it whole to someone else who didn't show and was selling it for twenty five dollars.

I pulled forward to try to convince the man to cut it for us and we talked back and forth, finally I gave in and bought the whole thing for 20 dollars (my sister later told me I had paid way to much for it, anyway). Then we were about to leave when the vendor frantically waved at us and told us to lower the window and began to thank us profusely for staying and buying the calabaza, saying, "Nos salvaste la vida, esos tipos nos iban a robar!" We had saved his life, that he was sure those two cyclists were getting ready to mug them, and since we lingered and haggled with him they got impatient and left. He told us that they weren't buying anything but water, but had hopped off to check where they had their money, etc. But then we arrived and stayed. Funny how things happen,right? You think you are going to go buy some calabaza when...
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Frustrated with Little Memory

No, I am not talking about my own!! It's my computer, it is old in computer years. You know how it is, if your computer is more than a couple of years old it's archaic, and I know I have been doing wonders with my laptop by using a external hard drive but I take pictures left and right and in abundance. Of course I came to PR with a mission, and with my camera in my purse but now that I want to blog and upload the odd and unusual, as well as the sentimental and beautiful, my Computer refuses. It can't handle it, so I must figure out some way to save these files yet remove them from my hard drive. Complicated and time consuming. Okay so I am frustrated with little memory.

Just Another Day Around Ocean Park


This is the view those lucky residents and guest house patrons get to see when they venture out in the morning. Not a bad way to spend a week in paradise. And believe it or not, it is easily accessible to the general public. Beaches are basically public in PR. If you own beach side property you must provide a right of way for people to access the beach. That is a great idea if I ever heard one and if you have been around the world, it is not the same necessarily in other countries. Once in Mexico I visited a beach in Acapulco and there were tons of wooden huts blocking the access to the beach and if you wanted to reach the water's edge you had to pay to get to the water. I never again took for granted what we have here.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Sights Around Naranjito





This is my mother's hometown and it is my emotional hometown as much as any place can be. So on Saturday, my sister, her husband and I went to the Catholic Mass in Naranjito, at the San Miguel Arcangel (St. Michael Archangel) Parrish right there in the Plaza in downtown Naranjito. It was Palm "Saturday." This church is not sleeping and is very alive. One of the tenderest things I have ever seen was happening that day. The preteens choir was seated on the steps outside of the sanctuary, and they were singing to the throngs that were approaching the church. It was with heart strings that they were drawing the Body of Christ into the sanctuary. It was so moving.

Then once we entered we were given palm fronds which immediately took me back to when my father went to mass on Palm Sunday. He would take the palm frond and bend it and tie the tip to form a knot and soft curve. Then he would take that Palm frond and hang it on the rear view mirror inside his car and there it would stay for a year until Palm Sunday the following year. I instinctively took my palm frond and began to to tie it as I walked in. Once I sat down I realized many others were doing the same. How wonderful to be Puertorriqueña, de corazon.

Next we sat down and I began to look around. There was Titi Juanita, and over there tall and thin Titi Georgina, Tio Victor with his red cheeks, and there another with my mother's cute diminutive straight nose. In fact, Mom's nose was every where. No Titi Juanita nor Titi Georgie were there, since Titi Georgina has been gone, God rest her soul, and Titi Juanita lives in the States, but many other distant relatives that looked just like them were. I couldn't help but feel right at home. They looked and smiled, every one. It was so precious.

The mass was led by a young handsome priest who seemed to be walking on the straight and narrow and totally devoted to the Lord. But he was no whimp. He shot straight from the hip as he spoke about the unfair trial Jesus Christ, our Lord went through. He also spoke about how each one of us was represented around Jesus: Judas who betrayed him, Peter who denied him, the scattered frightened disciples, and the women who stayed with him. Then came the crucifixion and the centurion saying, "Surely this was the Son of God." Next his burial and his resurrection, and the women who went to anoint him being the first to see him. What a privilege. You could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. The service was long and it was beautiful and I don't think any one that entered left the same.

God bless the Catholic Church in Naranjito. God bless you.
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African Tulip :Flower of the Day/ Tulipan Africano Flor del Dia



African Tulip is orange with a bright yellow rim, but it also has a peculiar smell which is the explanation for its nickname in Spanish. It smells a tad like stinky water unfortunately.

Tulipan Africano es color anaranjado con un pequeno borde rizado amarillo. Imponente pero humilde flor que abunda en todo Puerto Rico. Tiene un sobrenombre de "meaito," por su peculiar olor.
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El Projecto Senatorial Numero Seis de la Florida

Mucha gente en Puerto Rico no tienen idea de lo que esta pasando en la Florida en cuanto a la controversia generada por un Proyecto del Senado de la Florida Numero 6 dirigido a establecer un sistema de salarios totalmente ajenos a la realidad en las escuelas. Los educadores, administradores, ni los Superintendentes de las escuelas fueron consultados. Esta legislación con la cual se pretende evaluar y compensar a los maestros exclusivamente a base del progreso educativo de sus estudiantes en las pruebas estatales es injusto. Este projecto no es realmente sobre el progreso educativo de los estudiantes, sino un método para reducir costos sea como sea y eliminar las uniones para que los maestros no tengan manera de negociar sus salarios. Este proyecto es injusto y no refleja la realidad en las comunidades escolares en la Florida.

El Proyecto Senatorial Numero Seis fue generado por el Senador de la Florida, John Thrasher, quien es también presidente del Partido Republicano en la Florida. El Senador Thrasher en mi opinión se ha equivocado y ha levantado a un gigante dormido y no lo sabe. Su falta de respeto a los maestros en la Florida, es la culminación de varios años de intentos en el Senado de mejorar la educación en la Florida. Sin embargo, la educación ha mejorado no tanto por la legislatura sino por la visión y deseo de educadores de hacer de la Florida un estado que sea competitivo con el resto de la nación. Quizás la presión tenga algo que ver pero este ultimo proyecto no es realmente sobre como mejorar la educación en la Florida, sino mas bien como cortar costos.

Sin embargo, el éxito de un estudiante en la Escuela no lo determina una sola persona sino es el producto de toda una comunidad educativa. Le voy a dar un ejemplo. Mi escuela subió la nota escolar de una D a una B, un progreso substancial en una escuela donde la majoria de los estudianes son latinos, y la grande parte de Puerto Rico. La escuela propuso unas metas y establecimos unos cambios para lograrlo. La escuela, en este caso secundaria, cambio su estructura de una ambigua a dividirla por “casas” dentro de la escuela. “House A, B, C,” etc. Cada “Casa” fue establecida con su propio Asistente a Principal, decano, equipo disciplinario y consejería y grupo de maestros. Los estudiantes asignados a cada Casa participan dentro de esa casa por su estadía en la escuela secundaria, logrando que su experiencia en la Secundaria sea mas familiar, donde el equipo de maestros y personal educativo se especialicen en un contacto mas personal con su grupo de estudiantes.

No solamente se estableció una nueva estructura escolar en la agrupación de estudiantes, sino que se establecieron unas comunidades profesionales con los maestros de cada disciplina. No son meramente unas reuniones de maestros de una disciplina, sino reuniones en que estos maestros se dividen por grado escolar y generan lecciones para el beneficio de todos los estudiantes en ese grado en particular. O sea que los maestros se apoyan unos a los otros por que tienen la meta de mejorar el producto de la escuela en general. Todos los maestros se benefician. Todos aportan. Todos progresan.

Fíjese que el ambiente escolar es un factor determinante de cómo puede mejorar el producto escolar. No es la responsabilidad de un solo maestro producir el éxito de sus estudiantes. Los maestros cada día confrontan situaciones difíciles en cada salón y es la responsabilidad de los administradores establecer una comunidad y ambiente escolar donde los maestros puedan dar clases sin antagonismos y dentro de un marco de respeto.

Además de que los administradores tienen responsabilidad del progreso escolar, también sabemos que dentro de un distrito se establecen reglas que afectan a toda la comunidad escolar. El año pasado en el Condado de Orange se cambio el horario escolar para los estudiantes de secundaria. En vez de comenzar a las 7:30 de la mañana comenzamos a las 9 y media. Los estudiantes dormían mas y llegaban a la escuelas mas descansados. Sin embargo fue un cambio controversial y este año regresamos al horario de las siete y media. Estamos esperando los resultados del examen del FCAT para saber si los estudiantes fueron exitosos o no y si el horario tuvo algo que ver.

En resumen, el Proyecto Numero Seis del Senado de la Florida es un proyecto injusto donde los maestros no controlan muchos factores que afectan el progreso escolar de nuestros estudiantes. El progreso escolar de nuestros estudiantes es el resultado complejo de cómo funciona una comunidad educativa, incluyen los superintendentes, principales, administradores y maestros. Sin embargo se pretende echar todo el peso escolar sobre una sola persona. Es injusto penalizar a los maestros por la falta de progreso si ese estudiante no progresa. “Toma a toda una comunidad” el formar un estudiante que resulte en ciudadano responsable.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Florida State Bill 6 on Pay for Student Performance

This is the Florida Senate Bill 6 on paying teachers directly for student performance. It is as if we were the only influence in a child's education. It is as if we were the only ones responsible when we all well know that it takes a "village," a community, to form and advance children into well equipped adults.

Teachers should be compensated for teaching effectively according to how we cover the benchmarks we are assigned. Administration should assign a designated period of time in which these benchmarks should be covered and teachers need to document that they have covered these in a comprehensible manner during that allotted time depending on their demographics. Student performance then becomes a student's responsibility.

Administrators, who are also important members of our school community, should also be responsible for organizing Professional Study Group and other learning communities to ensure that teachers are supported and encouraged to work together to achieve better lesson plans and exchange of ideas. If these things are done performance will manifest itself. It is unfair of legislators to try to make teachers scapegoats of a state's education system, especially if these same state legislators refuse to fund education adequately.. Any teacher can tell you that their professional experience is closely tied to who is at the helm of their school. A head principal can make a world of a difference in how that school functions, but it is also managed by a superintendent.

I am fortunate that I work at a school where my principal is a total professional who knows how to manage the educational climate and encouraged us to raise our school grade from a D to a B, and this year we are hoping for an A. Yet some things are out of our hands. For instance, we know that well rested students do better than those that aren't and last year high schools in Orange County went to a later schedule than this year. This move was controversial and we are back to the early schedule. Are our schedules in the hands of teachers? No! Even our administrators know that these factors aren't in our hands and neither in theirs. Yet under this bill we would be penalized for something totally out of our hands. We know that school hours is just the tip of the iceberg. Financial struggles, illnesses, family home life, crime, drug use, gangs, teen pregnancy and even personality conflicts can be factors to performance. It is almost insane not to say ludicrous to demand we "make" these kids perform when we have little control over these other factors.

But this issue isn't really about Student Performance is it? It is just a ruse to cram a costing cutting agenda through the legislature with out any consideration to how unjust it is. Even The Washington Post expressed that this Bill would be a disaster for Florida teachers, students, and education in general. Good teachers would leave the field an article claims, because there is no job security. You have an illness, a personal problem, and your performance declines, you are out of there. It creates a dog eat dog work setting.

Quality of education will suffer. Why would any teacher want to invest in a graduate degree if they are not assured that they will get some compensation for their investment and be able to pay off that graduate degree? Wouldn't those with graduate degrees rather work in a state where they are compensated adequately without having to jump through hoops? You don't have to be a rocket scientist (in fact our students know better)to figure out what is going to happen. A Brain Drain. What are these people thinking in Tallahassee?

By the way, those senators that voted for Bill 6 had better remember that teachers have good memories and we might have voted them in and we can vote them out. With this legislation they just alienated and demoralized a substantial portion of their constituency. Not one teacher I have spoken to feels so super confident that this legislation hasn't in one way or another frightened them. This is not right.

Teachers don't deny that there is always room for growth and that is why we are constantly looking for ways to improve our teaching techniques, learning how to incorporate technology into our curriculum, taking continued education classes, and pursuing graduate degrees and we should be compensated. We can also see how this measure is not really about improving the quality of education in Florida, because it will ultimately backfire. If they want to cut costs, there are better ways to do it. Cutting teacher salaries by paying us on shifting sand just won't cut it. Find another way to cut costs and balance the budget.