D.C. Trip Reflection by K.W.

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On the high school trip to Washington D.C. , we saw some amazing things. We actually got to see the things we’ve been learning about in books since elementary school. We saw the Capitol Building, went to the Smithsonian’s, visited the Marine Corps Museum, went to the Lincoln Memorial and various other important places for our country. Being there was truly a great experience.

In the Capitol Building, we toured around and saw amazing architecture and saw where the senate used to meet. Also we got to see where many presidents and various other leaders from our country sat and made the decisions that built our country to what it is today. Another things we saw, was the famous artwork and statues of people and events happening in our nation’s history. Although our feet were sore, that didn’t take away from seeing all the historic pieces.

Also on our trip to our country’s Capital, we visited two of our country’s Smithsonians. The Natural History Museum and the American History Museum. These both were cool things to walk through and see and help understand our country and the things in it better. The artifacts and models of old animals that exist and used to exist were cool to see.

On the last day we were in Washington D.C. , we got to go through various simulations and see many different items that were included in many of the battles that were fought by our nation’s men and women. We also got to see the planes, tanks, and tons of rifles that were used and they still use. It gives you a different kind of respect for our war veterans.

Also on our final day in Washington D.C. , we visited the Lincoln Memorial. Even though this place was amazing to see after years of seeing it in movies like Night at the Museum, most of my time was spent taking selfies with Allison and Abe. But, he really is amazing to see in person like that.

Overall, it’s difficult to put into words the places we visited. The ones I mentioned were just a couple out of all the different places we go to go to and experience. Personally, I think hearing about the different monuments and buildings doesn’t justify how it is to actually go and see everything D.C. has to offer.

DC Reflection by T.H.

Washington DC was very fun. We went to a lot of historical places. Old places like Mount Vernon were really cool. I mostly enjoyed the old houses but I also liked a lot of the museums. This trip helped me more understand the history of the United States.  I also Learned that DC has some very outrageous prices. Even when we were not exploring museums, buildings, and memorials. The city in general was cool. Every building you could see was made out of stone. The Holocaust Museum was one that you can never forget; everything in that place had a story of its own.

Reflection by K.T.

The past week some of us who attend WCA stayed in Maine and helped at a homeless shelter, a VNA home, and more. I would also like to point out that I almost got married. So since you might be wondering why a 15-year-old almost got married, I’ll start with that. Some of the students from WCA went and volunteered at a homeless shelter. It was very fun for me as I like to connect with the homeless people and give them hope and a smile. Well I was there a man around 20 or so had clearly just moved here from a different country. He was volunteering too. Well we were preparing food and such he came over and randomly offered me a chocolate bar. I later come to find out that in his country that was their way of asking for a lady’s hand in marriage. Thank goodness I said no when he offered. But we all have that one friend who would take it right ?? Well Brandon almost took it from the man. What did I learn from that you might ask? To never take candy from foreign guys. I love serving at homeless shelters. I can connect with them and it’s a gift from God that I truly know was given to me. I also want to a nursing home and got the chance to talk with Delmore. A 90-year-old man who served in world war 2 has been married 50 years and has kids of his own. I got to talk about God with him and I know I planted a seed that will hopefully grow. I enjoyed the most being able to spend time with my classmates and get to know them better.

Washington, D.C. Reflection by S.S.

The places we went to in D.C. were really enjoyable and exciting. We started out the first day in D.C. by going to the American and Natural History museums. The museums were really nice and interesting. I found the American history museum to not be completely enjoyable, but seeing all the stuff that went on in the past helped to reassure me that the time I’m living in now is all because of the men and women who gave their lives for this country. With the natural history museum, I found all the artefacts, animals, and amount of objects in the building sheerly amazing and enjoyable. Seeing everything in the past as well as present together in these museums is great!

Another amazing place we went to was the Arlington National Cemetery. The fact of seeing all the graves and memorials there was very humbling. My favourite section of the cemetery was the changing of the guards. I got to see the changing of the guards right up close and seeing it done in person gave me the feeling of security. Knowing that our troops take that much care and attention to just one tomb makes me wonder and think of how much care and attention they put into our country.

Being able to go to such places like the American and Natural History museum, Arlington National Cemetery, the Holocaust museum, Mount Vernon, the Marine Corps museum and many other places has changed me as a person and how I view some of History and how I see my country. Going on this trip was a huge privilege and blessing in many ways.

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April 27-May 30 Reflection by B.B.

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It’s quite easy to hold onto personal beliefs so dear they might as well be set in stone. I previously was not one to let go of deeply rooted principles that had stemmed from long, drawn out, periods of thought. I suppose it’s fair to call me ignorant, because this characteristic still hasn’t been completely scraped off, like how gum or anything tacky can leave a residue when you try to remove it. When I debate and find I’m losing, or a moment comes where I find what I once thought was the only thing that could float in the vast sea of “truth”, has holes throughout and the water is spilling in, I realize these are not necessarily waters of truth, but of ignorance. That’s when life changing moments occur for me the most, when I admit that I am wrong and my once deeply cemented beliefs are chiseled out and questioned. April 27th through May 1st was one of those times.

Before that week, I had a preconception of negativity, and it didn’t take much for me to gain a cynical perspective, toward America and society. It seemed to me that everywhere I looked there was greed, corruption, immorality, and a general sense of hopelessness. “It’s all about consumption here,” I said.

On our first day back to school, Monday, I went with the remaining people of my high school, of whom did not go on a trip to Washington D.C. with the other students, to the Preble Street Soup Kitchen in Portland. My experience there reinforced this negativity. Even the 300 or so homeless people, who came to be fed, were selfish and greedy, only wanting the best of the best desserts, and apples, and not being happy with the amount of food they were given, which was all free. The majority of these people, no doubt, had little money, and did not get a chance to eat warm food like this often, and if they did, it was most likely because they lived off the food of the soup kitchen. You would expect them to be thankful for the times they can come in and get a warm meal. After serving, I left there with a sense of hopelessness for the homeless, and I felt as though how those people acted was the pinnacle of how humankind acts when there is nothing holding them to a standard of cleanliness or morality. All I could see from this experience was the negative aspects.

The next day, however, was much different. I went to the Maine Veteran’s Home, with the group from the day before, in South Paris, where I met a man named Gunny, who was a zealous, genteel, gregarious, elderly man. He had served in the Marine Corps and he shared with me humorous story after story, and if the premise of the story wasn’t all that comical, he still made it so. He had truly the grandest old-time in the Marine Corps, as part of Tank Company. He had driven tanks and amphibious vehicles, played soccer, and loved the food he was served during his time there. I always saw the military as dismal. He made the military sound so eventful and enjoyable I almost felt like joining myself. We then went off the topic of military, and he shared with me amusing details of his current life. I found that even though he didn’t live in his own house, he was without a lot of privacy, and could not go off the property of that veteran’s home often or at all, he still appreciated everything he had. He told me, “I like this place.The food is good, I’ve got a bed to sleep in, and I got a roof over my head, and that’s all you really need.” I went away from Gunny, reluctantly, but also pondering on all these new cognitions I was formulating in my head. This man was so thankful in the face of his circumstances, but if I were in his place, I would be miserable. He clearly is a man who strives to get the most out of every situation. Overall, his optimism was infectious. I understand it can be hard for elderly people in Gunny’s situations to be as positive as he was, but knowing someone who didn’t care about the negatives and only the positives gave me the sense that I should focus more on the positives of life.

The day after the veteran’s home, I watched a movie with the same party called “America: Imagine a World Without Her”. The movie started out by listing all of the negative affairs America is associated with and how people can easily focus only on these matters and develop disdain for this country. However, later, the narrator went on to give logical explanations of why if America did not do the things it did, we would not have the benefits of this grand country we have today. In the instant of finishing the movie, an immense impression of patriotism. I realised there were so many positives to America, and the reality of the fact that I lived here opened my eyes to see this great country in a new light, a positive light. I have a great life, and I’m sure I have a lot more than most people my age would love to have. I’m truly blessed, and Gunny’s grateful heart rubbed off on me.

When I came into that week having been pondering all the problems and issues our society faces, I forgot the concept that deserved my attention. I forgot to be grateful.

Gratefulness brings you, not just one step closer, but two steps closer to positivity. Even before that week I struggled with having a more positive outlook on life and the people around me. I wasn’t grateful for my peers because I, ironically, focused on their lackadaisical attitude and their pessimism. I spent the worthless time to pick out all the flaws I could find in everything and anything. I needed all of these collective moments to spur me into realizing my attitude. I needed to humble myself and recognize that my judgmentalness was not making my life more valuable. I had this condescending demeanor that, “I had my act together and I knew right from wrong”.  I finally realised that life is too short to waste time on being so petty. I have to focus on the positive and see the good. How can I expect my life to be good if i only focus on the opposite? After that week, I truly believe I discovered a concept of life as marvelous as finding the holy grail. I learned that if I looked at everything through the lenses of positivity, life would regain its quality again. Of course there will be hardships and, simply put, lousy moments in life, but that doesn’t mean I should dwell on them. I learned that I have to stay positive no matter the circumstances. By the end of the day, it all boils down to this, why not be positive at all times?

The Dash- DC Reflection by A.H.

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Every morning into DC, our tour guide Mary chose a student to read a poem. The Dash Poem speaks about how it is up to you on how you live your life. In the end, will you be proud? Or will you be ashamed of how you lived the life that our Creator gave you the privilege to have. Click on the link where you will find the poem we heard on the bus one morning.

“The Dash” by Linda Ellis

This poem has inspired me to live life to the fullest. It sounds cliche, we hear it all the time, but after hearing The Dash Poem, there are dreams and goals I have. This poem asks, how will you being spending your dash? Well, I may be young, but 15 year old me has dreams. One thing I got out of the entire trip was the renewed decision of attending college. Mary said going to college will teach you to think. She is totally right about that. Once I graduate high school I would love to go into the medical field where I can save lives. It’s not even about the money I will be making, it’s the gratification of helping people. That is where my heart currently stands. We hear all these terrible things happening across the globe and I just want to make a difference, whether it being in another country, state or my home state. I’ve always known that my dreams were in that direction but going to DC solidified it. I will be spending my high school dash learning more about His character. As a freshman in highschool, I am already beyond excited for my college dash. I’m hoping college is as great as I’ve heard.

Guest Bloggers: Student Reflections

Some of my students at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Some of my students at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The week after April Vacation I traveled to Washington, D.C. with 13 students and two parent chaperones. A handful of students didn’t go on the trip, and participated in various activities with a veterans’ home, a soup kitchen, and ministry to the school. When we returned, we shared our experiences with each other and I asked the students to write reflection pieces to share. They also have selected photos to include with their reflection. Over the next several days I will share these reflections here on the blog. They’ve done a great job! Please read and comment on the student posts!

Facing History and Ourselves, To Kill a Mockingbird, Stereotypes and Revelations

For our final novel of the year, my sophomores are reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love this novel, and we don’t have a lot of time left in the school year to spend on it. I didn’t have the time or the energy to develop an in-depth PBL unit, and I’ve been on an “authentic learning experience” kick lately, so I decided we’d read the book, talk about it like normal people, and keep the literature activities to a minimum. While looking for new resources for teaching the book more simply, I came across wonderful materials from Facing History and Ourselves. So far we have had some great discussions about identity and stereotypes, and it is giving my students a good framework for understanding the novel. It also gives them a bridge to the work they are doing in American History as they learn about the Progressive Era and complete a project on modern progressive movements. They will be visiting The Root Cellar in Lewiston, an organization that serves a large immigrant population. It is my hope that they will be able to develop a stronger sense of their own identity and awareness of stereotypes.

Today in class I gave them 6 questions, taken from the Facing History curriculum, to answer about their reading of the first 7 chapters. I need to check their reading and comprehension. They paired up to discuss the questions with directions to record their discussion using the voice memo app on their iPhones/iPads, and then email me the audio file. The pairs went off to relatively quiet places to complete the activity. When they all came back together, one group told me that it wasn’t until they were working through the questions that they realized Calpurnia was black. They assumed because of the role she plays in the family and the amount of authority she has in the children’s lives, that she was white. The rest of the class replied, “Oh, I knew she was black.” So we talked about the things in the story that clued them in to that. It was a fabulous conversation about characterization, reading, and stereotypes.

In My Own Backyard

This afternoon I celebrated the end of two very stressful, busy weeks and National Readathon Day by reading Paper Things by Jennifer Richards Jacobson. The book doesn’t officially release until February 10, but somehow Letterpress Books of Portland was able to secure copies to sell at the nErDCamp Northern New England Author Night last week. I love Jennifer’s writing, I’ve been hearing good things about the book, so of course I needed to get a copy and have it signed.

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I wasn’t very far into the book before I was wiping my eyes, moved to compassion for Ari, the 11 year old main character/narrator. Ari, through a series of events completely out of her control, becomes homeless. The story takes place right here in Portland, Maine (called Port City in the book). This is a fabulous book that I really think should be read by every teacher and young person.
Just as I think everyone should read Kate Messner’s The Exact Location of Home. Although first they should read Kate’s The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, so they meet Zig before they read his story in The Exact Location of Home.

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Books like these always remind me that my students are dealing with things that I often have no idea about. Although, reading Paper Things, I realize that the chances of my students actually dealing with homelessness is pretty slim. I teach in a private school. I know it isn’t out of the realm of possibility, there might be a student who is blessed to have a grandparent or a generous patron pay their tuition, but most of our students have parents who are making incredible sacrifices to pay our incredibly low tuition, but they aren’t in danger of being homeless. Of course, I realize I am making an assumption about our students.

But books like these also make me grateful for what I do have, because in our depressed economy, working in a small Christian school, I realize how close so many of us are living to that line. How easy it would be for us or for the families of one of my students to slip into the place where what money is coming in doesn’t cover the bills and the situation snowballs.

This is the second book I know about to come out this winter that deals with poverty and homelessness among school children. This is a growing problem, although I wonder how much the problem it’s self is growing and how much we are simply just becoming more aware? In The Exact Location of Home, Zig lives in a town on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. Ari, in Paper Things, lives in Portland, Maine. These are not necessarily communities where poverty and homelessness are the first things to come to mind, and yet it is a reality.

I’ve recently read some articles about how the issues with our supposedly broken education system aren’t that the education or schools themselves are bad. It’s that there is a high percentage of kids living in poverty. How do we expect students to complete homework, pay attention in class, and complete projects using technology when they are wondering where they’re going to sleep that night or when they’ll get a meal? Common Core isn’t going to do a single thing to improve schools, it will simply widen that gap between the haves and the have-nots, drive failing schools deeper into depression, and make it even more hopeless for a large percentage of the population.

So I wonder, how much do my students know or understand about the world around them? We want them to be concerned about children starving in Africa, to donate so we can help people in India get clean water and Bibles, but how much do they understand about their own community and state? Are they living in ignorance that because they are able to afford a new iPod, or buy fast food for lunch they assume everyone can, and they don’t realize that while its frustrating to wait to upgrade their cell phone because they need to save the money, just a few miles from them kids their age are hoping to get a bed in a shelter and a hot meal?

Reading Paper Things has gotten me thinking. A few weeks ago we had a really good planning session with the middle school and high school teachers. We talked about restructuring our school so that spiritual formation is the linchpin for our whole program. Part of the conversation was about how to incorporate service, so that it wasn’t some external thing, but an outpouring of their developing faith. In order to do that we need to approach our academics differently. We need to provide opportunity for real world experiences. I’m starting to think about the idea of exploring poverty or homelessness. I can see having the students read and discuss books such as Paper Things and The Exact Location of Home as part of a larger study on either of these topics.

I have more reading to do, including A Framework for Understanding Poverty, but I’m starting to ruminate on the idea of developing a problem based learning study that will incorporate spiritual formation, academic subjects, and service.

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I want desperately to transform my school, our teaching, and our learning. I want to be do problem based learning and inquiry. I want a richer educational experience for me and for my students. I want to delve into difficult topics that break my heart and the heart of my students. I want them to have the opportunity to see beyond themselves and to develop gratitude for want they have and a heart of compassion for those who aren’t as blessed as them.

It’s going to take a lot of time and hard work on my part, but it will be so worth it.