Posted in #Deconstruct, book recommendations, Books, Connections, Curriculum Ideas, Equity & Cultural Competency, Lesson Ideas, Summer Series of Saves

The Patron Saints of Nothing

I remember how during sophomore year, my English class read Night by Elie Wiesel while we learned about the Holocaust in World History. After we finished the book, we read the author’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember how he said something about how if people don’t speak out when something wrong is happening—wherever in the world—they’re helping whoever is committing that wrong by allowing it to happen. Our class discussed the idea, and almost everyone agreed with it, even me. At least, we said we did. Never mind the fact we all knew most of us didn’t even say shit when we saw someone slap the books out of a kid’s hands in the hallway. In fact, the most outspoken supporter of the idea during the discussion was a kid who did that kind of dumb stuff all the time and thought it was hilarious.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

One of the countries I know little about is the Philippines, and I’m ashamed of this. The only thing I was aware of is the death toll from Duterte’s dictatorship, a man our current “president” admires. Well, makes sense: both are vile, sexual predators with a knack for domestic terrorism. My former student teacher, L, family is from the Philippines, as are over a hundred thousand in Washington State, and during the election year her fears for her family for supporting Tr*** were well founded. In other words: there are a lot of parallels.

But we all know these aren’t abstract headlines: the terror they inflict and promote affects our students’ lives in concrete and harmful ways. However, I am not a spoiler: so no more plot points, or character analysis. I will leave you to enjoy this masterful novel. What I will do, though, is gather and curate some of the other art and poetry mentioned in the novel, so if you decide to add this to your classroom library, these resources will be available:


The Spoilarium by Juan Luna, 1884, National Museum of Fine Arts, Manila

National Museum:

Books and Poetry:

A Litany for Survival by Audre Lourde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;

News Stories: (graphic imagery)

Posted in being a better colleague, Being a better teacher

Loss. Love. And Legacy.

John Spencer is one of my first, and lasting PLN colleagues. I read his words carefully, and it was he who over the weekend told of the sad news about Joe Bower. Otherwise, I may not have known, because over the years I’ve pruned my PLN down, and now I realize too far: growing this network again to sustain and provide professional oxygen must be my personal mandate.

During my own journey, sometimes I didn’t understand what Joe was trying to say, or understand how powerful his words are. Perhaps that is one of the cardinal tenets of educator reflection: if you feel uncomfortable, look closer. Stay mindful. I went to read his words again, and now seeing his intentions with clearer eyes, and how he was a guardian and paladin for children is even more profound.

Anyway, if you’re ever conflicted about grading, and wonder how to get the best work out of students, read Joe’s words. Sustaining and loving.

Diane Ravitch, professor of education at New York University: “He was one of those educators that you wish were in charge of an entire state or nation. He was kind, caring, compassionate, and loved children.”

Many of us should be heard, be counted: continue the good fight.