Building Relationships Through Letter Writing.

Corresponding with students via snail mail is a good way for teachers to foster trust anytime—but especially when everyone is physically distanced.

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With remote teaching likely continuing into the next academic year, we’ll need low-tech ways to establish relationships with students whom we can’t reach digitally. An ongoing letter communication through the mail is just that—and is also an empowering way to build relational trust with students. That trust, explains Zaretta Hammond, is the foundation on which culturally responsive teaching can change learning trajectories for even our most vulnerable students.

My first year in the classroom, I saw one of my more disengaged students pass a note to a friend. I thought about confiscating it, as my teachers had done. Instead, I wrote her my own note the next day. She wrote back, and we continued writing through the year, her engagement in class strengthening alongside our relationship. Letter writing became my most essential tool for earning my students’ trust.

When we as teachers write letters to students and they write back to us, we balance power dynamics, learn from each other, practice holding space for complex feelings, and engage our natural curiosities as readers and writers. Here are several suggestions for writing meaningful letters to students.

INTRODUCING THE LETTERS

To promote authentic communication that equalizes the power dynamic, remove obligations and expectations that students participate. Keep the letters optional and clarify that writing conventions and content will not be evaluated.

Inform families, perhaps in a separate letter, that you are initiating a dialogue with students through optional letter writing. Remind parents and students that you will respect their privacy—but that you are still a mandated reporter.

Keep the lines of communication open and flexible by avoiding constraints like deadlines and page limits. Make it known that students are welcome to start new topics and don’t need to continue a topic initiated by the teacher.

Write the first letter to your students (you might start with a few students per week) to serve as a helpful example for students who may struggle with this possibly unfamiliar form. Set students at ease by using a casual tone, sharing personal anecdotes, and even including jokes or funny sketches. Model letter writing conventions like dating and signing the letter.

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WRITING YOUR LETTERS

I used to pepper my letters with questions and suggested topics to prompt students to respond. But this approach maintains the traditional power structures of classroom communication, where the teacher is facilitating conversation. Over time, I learned to create a safe space that promotes genuine dialogue.

Participate in the conversation instead of directing it: If I know a student plays the violin, I won’t directly ask him about it. Instead, I write about my related experiences. For example, with this extra time on my hands, I have thought about finally learning how to play my guitar. I’m thinking of trying YouTube videos, but I’m worried that I won’t have the discipline to practice without a teacher. By sharing these thoughts, I open up lines of communication. My student is free to pick up this thread and respond in a variety of ways, instead of only answering my specific questions about the violin. Maybe he won’t mention his violin at all and instead choose to talk about YouTube, describe what he’s doing with his extra time, or assuage my worries about learning a string instrument.

Ask questions that stem from curiosity about topics that students initiate: Questions that are prompted by what students are choosing to share with us invite us to demonstrate genuine curiosity, offer our unique perspective, and introduce new words and ideas that probe students’ thinking. When we gain insight into our students’ unique funds of knowledge, we see their academic assets. We can use these insights to plan instruction that leverages what students already know.

Make your thinking visible: When young people get a glimpse into the thinking life of someone else, especially someone who thinks in an interesting or productive way, it’s the best kind of education. When a student recommends an app I should download, I’m honest about how I’m trying to cut back on my phone use since I’m getting addicted to the games I already play. I add that I’m trying to dock my phone after 6 p.m. and will let her know how it goes. By observing others’ thinking, our students may learn new coping skills and language to navigate their own experiences.

Encourage all forms of expression, regardless of perceived errors or informality: Zaretta Hammond has said that our students’ errors are information. As students informally write to you to connect and share their lives, avoid directives about how they should write. Simply note their errors and write your response with correct models. Use this information as you plan your instruction, but don’t instruct in your letter.

Hold space for students’ feelings: To maintain an equitable co-writing relationship, refrain from comments that evoke the authority you still have as the teacher. Instead of suggesting solutions to problems that students share, respond with acknowledgment and empathy. Instead of reassuring students with praise, show how you connect with their experience or what you’re learning from them.

When our students have uneven access to distance-learning technology, writing letters allows us to advance equity within our sphere of influence. We can give them a safe space in which to reflect, complain, disagree, express fear, ask hard questions, and hear our stories. We can practice being there for students as a trusted adult, a relationship that can nurture rigorous learning.

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort

If Your Partner Doesn't Do These 7 Things, You're Forcing Your ...

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort

Isn’t it the best feeling to hear “It wasn’t the same without you” or “I missed you so much”?

We all want to feel desired, wanted, and needed. We all want to feel loved and cared for. We all want to be missed. When it comes to significant others, we need to feel desired. That desire drives the passion, intimacy, and love that we feel between each other.

Sometimes we feel the passion but not the desire. We receive the response to our text a day or two later without any acknowledgement that it was late. Sure, people can be busy. Of course, we’re always busy. But how busy do you have to be to not respond with a “So sorry, busy day, will respond later”? It’s the respectful thing to do.

In our society, texting is many times our primary form of communication. We get to know each other by what emojis we send, whether or not we use periods or commas, and of course, our response time. We’re never asking for much, but we do expect a response within a respectable amount of time.

It might be that you’re trying to plan a date with the person from your English class that you’ve been crushing on for the entire year. It might be an old fling that you’re trying to reconnect with. It might be someone you’ve gone on a few dates with and you’re really feeling the potential.

Whether you’re in a potential, new, current, or nonexistent relationship, there’s never a reason to settle for someone who doesn’t make it known they want you. Here are seven reasons why.

7 Mistakes You May Make In A New Relationship, And How To Fix Them

1. You deserve better.
First comes first: You deserve better. If your best friend was complaining that the guy she likes was only texting her back every three or four days, what advice would you give her? You deserve better. It doesn’t matter whether this person is the sweetest person ever when you’re together. Making plans is a crucial step to continue getting to know each other. If they’re wishy-washy, it’s not worth it to you.

2. Your time is valuable.
When this person is off “being too busy,” you’re waiting around for their text and either coming up with excuses for them or feeling sorry for yourself. Stop that! Your time is valuable and you could be doing much better things than thinking about the “what ifs.” Stop “what if-ing” and spend your time investing in someone who will also invest time in you.

3. The Golden Rule.
Treat others how you want to be treated. You know that you wouldn’t be this flaky with someone, so why let yourself be treated this way? Indirectly, it’s insulting to you. You don’t need to be insulted or played with.

4. You won’t know what other opportunities are out there.
When you’re distracted by what this person could be doing instead of texting you back, you’re wasting your own time. You could be missing out on bumping into that cute person at the coffee shop who is completely willing to spend the 30-seconds it takes to reply to a text and make plans. Who knows what else you’re missing? You don’t! Not until you start looking.

5. You’ll become dependent on someone who isn’t dependable.
Let’s say you end up waiting 3 days for the reply. Even though you’re frustrated that this person made you wait, you make plans for Saturday and you’re looking forward to it. Saturday is a blast and your optimism is restored that this person is the one for you. They end up taking another 3 days to reply when you try to make plans again. This becomes a cycle of feeling so down when you’re waiting for the reply, but so happy when you finally make plans. You don’t need this madness! There are already so many stressors in life; waiting the whole week to confirm your weekend plans shouldn’t be another one.

6. There are better things to do than wait around.
Cook a new recipe. Bake cookies. Sing. Dance. Go to the beach, for a drive, for a run. There are endless possibilities for you to do that will stimulate your mind, body, and spirit much more than waiting around for a text back.

7. You are strong!
You might be feeling like it actually is worth it to you to wait around or that there actually aren’t better opportunities for you out there. But trust me, there are. Be a little more patient—the best has yet to come.

The bottom line is that if someone wants you in their life, they’ll make an effort to keep you in it. You’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t wait for someone to “come around” and show you they want you. If they do, you’ll know.

How to Reap the Benefits of Meditation Without Meditating

Thought-clouds

 

The benefits of meditation are far reaching and have been well known for centuries. However, the idea of formal meditation doesn’t sit well with some of us.

The idea of sitting cross-legged for extended periods and delving inward puts many of us off before we’ve even got started. Even the word “meditation” can be a very real barrier to entry for some. What a shame, as the many benefits of meditation can be good for us all.

Those benefits can include:

  • reduction in the stress we feel
  • A deeper sense of calm and relaxation in our lives
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety
  • A better understanding of what we truly think/feel/want
  • Less feelings of anger, hurt, or disquiet
  • Being more present
  • Being more content
  • A better understanding of who we really are

This little list is just starting to scratch the surface. Meditating can be that powerful.

If meditating in a more traditional way for extended periods feels right for you, all power to you— please continue with your journey. If that isn’t you, don’t worry, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.

If you recoil a little when meditation is mentioned but still want to reap some of the rewards, I hope to offer several ideas that might work for you. But first, a bit of personal reflection.

I Confess I Do Not Have a Formal Meditation Practice

As someone that writes books and a blog all under the broad umbrella of simplicity and that can often be found leafing through books and words by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bruce Lee, Sun Tzu, and Lao Tzu, it may surprise you to know I do not consider myself to have a formal meditation practice.

Perhaps somewhat out of step with the trend of our time, my morning routine (if I even have one) does not have time carved out for sitting cross-legged in a quiet room, reflecting on the universe at large.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire that others do this, but it never really felt like a fit for me. I’ve tried to make it a habit, at a few points in my life, but it just hasn’t stuck.

If I’m honest, I think the word “meditation” itself intimidates many of us. We perceive it to mean we need some special point of entry, or skillset, to reap the rewards.

All this said, perhaps paradoxically, I am also totally sold on the benefits of meditation and I want them to be a part of my life. I just happen to believe you can get those benefits in other ways. Your formal practice doesn’t have to be formal, and you don’t even have to call it a “practice.”

This is where the art of meditating without meditation comes in.

Meditation without Meditating in Action: My Top 6

Here are some of my favorite ways to achieve some of meditation’s powerful benefits without actually feeling like I am meditating.

1. Walking

Walking is my ultimate reset. It blows away the mental cobwebs that can accumulate. It provides new stimulus and re-energises a tired mind. Complex problems I’ve been struggling with can suddenly feel like they fall into place on a good, long walk. A fresh perspective can somewhat magically drift into view.

I like to walk early, before the rush and before the noise of human traffic drowns out the birds singing. Depending on where I am, I like to walk as close to nature as possible (a nice park, a beach, a hike over rolling hills). This is as close as I consider I get to a formal meditative practice.

2. Being at one with the outdoors and nature

The natural world is a passion for me. Something that breathes life and color into any day, if I just make time to stop and notice what is going on around me. I find it grounding and uplifting all at once.

Nature presents us with a constant wonderland. It’s easy to take this for granted. We can fix this by spending some time just being at one with nature and reconnecting with the great outdoors, and we’ll feel so much better for it.

Be amazed by that spider’s web glistening with the morning’s dew.

Take in the sun rising and setting.

Make time to watch the clouds moving overhead, soak up the inspiration that comes from the view.

Be endlessly in awe at nature’s ability to evolve, adapt, and deal with challenges.

Enjoy the offerings of new life and renewal each and every spring, by making deliberate time to stop and notice.

3. Losing myself in music (art)

Some would say this is cheating, as you are using outside stimulus to get a response; I say call it what you will. The benefits that people claim to get from meditation, I have and feel from losing myself in music.

Music is transformative. It can lift our mood on our darkest days, it can ease anxiety when we feel on edge about something, it can shift our mindset.

We can leverage different music at different times to support our state of well-being. Music is one of life’s true pleasures for me, one of the very last things I would want to give up.

However, if music isn’t quite as powerful a force in your own life, perhaps there is something else that is. Literature can, and does, serve the same end. Or a beautiful painting or sculpture that really moves us, or even a really great movie. All of the above can be transformative, life-affirming, and even life-changing ways we can apply ourselves.

4. Seeking stillness

Seeking stillness may sound like a total contrast to the earlier suggestion to listen to music; maybe it is or isn’t, but this time is necessary for me. This is time to let my mind just drift without expecting too much of anything from it. Letting it wander where it wanders. In a results-orientated culture, we can spend too little time here.

Cut to the core, this is actually what meditation is all about. For me, all it really means is taking the time to get in touch with our own thoughts and finding a point of reflection. It’s cutting out the external world for a while and tuning into frequency us. It’s about reconnecting with the signal, amongst the noise.

This is time to turn off the phone, unplug from the internet, and make space for some calm in our day.

Disconnecting a little from the busy world around us, to reconnect with ourselves.

No special cushion necessary, unless you want one, no special seating position necessary unless it helps trigger the state. Just make a commitment to be mindful and find some stillness in your own way.

5. Creating

For me this means writing and playing guitar.

Writing, in particular, is something I spend much time on. I feel better on days and weeks that I have made time to write creatively. Ideas flow freely and come out on the page. I make sense of thoughts and words and try to communicate as effectively as I can, then I refine (edit). When I am truly in a writing flow, this creative process can definitely feel meditative.

6. Exercise (calisthenics, yoga, and breathwork)

I am a fan and practitioner of calisthenics (working with one’s bodyweight as the weight). I find this form of training both physically demanding and endlessly interesting. I enjoy the raw simplicity.

Learning new moves or practicing well-worn moves, trying to perfect them, also has a meditative effect. I’m totally in the practice, and often have to be if the move in question is getting hard or has a balancing element. Trying to create whole body tension for some moves also means I need to be aware of where my breath is (am I holding it somewhere or letting it flow?).

Yoga is relatively new to me and I have been slow to embrace it, perhaps somewhat surprisingly as my wife is a yoga practitioner and teacher and has encouraged me to give it a proper go for years.  Knucklehead that I am, I finally took note and I’ve come to really enjoy this time. I now make time for working on the mat through my week, amongst other exercise I do.

As I am new to the yoga poses themselves, and how different teachers teach, I find I have to be totally present for yoga. No time to think about what comes after or what has just happened; to keep up with the class I have to listen. This has a calming effect on body and soul on the best days.

The breathwork, and constant queues to focus on breath, have also made me aware of where I tend to keep tension (physically and mentally).

Reframing Meditation

What’s great about this list is that you can use these practices interchangeably, and they can happily co-exist at the same time.

I think the “meditation” label puts as many off as it attracts. In busy and distracted times, this is a missed opportunity for us all to feel the benefits.

When we forget the labels, all we’re doing with the practices above is resetting a little. The art of meditating without meditating if you like.

Give it a go. String these resets together on a regular basis and feel the benefits for yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be open to further experiments in formal meditative practice after doing so. If not, just find your own way. Keep what works for you, discard what doesn’t, and call it what you want, or call it nothing at all.

Autumn Serenade

Autumn Serenade – song by a beautiful Armenian voice and her name is SONA RUBENYAN. “Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”

Sona Rubenyan / Autumn Serenade – SONA RUBENYAN / Ashnan serenad

Elita Harutyunyan, Author of the speeches

Author of music, Vazgen Koloyan

Lyrics in English:

The day dusk slowly, when you were away from me,

Life became futile, lost the dung, became one-on-one.

She was dumb, relaxed, faded, and brought her autumn.

 

And that autumn bloomed me in colors, bewildered me,

My heart took him.

And that autumn serenade played me,

And the mild bridge took my wind …

 

In the rain, I will tell the story to my ears,

And I will ask him to leave you lost my dream,

The slow, thin whispers came autumn.

 

And that autumn bloomed me in colors, bewildered me,

My heart took him.

And that autumn serenade played me,

And the mild bridge took my wind …

 

Return to my sun in the autumn,

Bring me colors, bring a dream.

 

The autumn yellow colors barked me, bewitched me,

My heart took him.

And that autumn did not care for you anymore,

My love took away …

My love took away …

=========================

The Lyrics in Armenian Language:

Խոսքերի հեղինակ՝ Էլիտա Հարությունյան

Երաժշտության հեղինակ՝ Վազգեն Քոլոյան

 

Օրը մթնեց դանդաղ, երբ ինձնից դու հեռացար անհետ,

Կյանքն անիմաստ դարձավ, կորցրեց խինդը, միագույն դարձավ:

Խամրեց, հանգչեց, մարեց, իր հետ աշուն բերեց:

 

Ու այդ աշունը գույներով ինձ կախարդեց, կախարդեց ինձ,

Սիրտս իրեն վերցրեց:

Ու այդ աշունը սերենադ ինձ նվագեց,

Ու քամին մեղմ սերս տարավ…

 

Հորդ անձրևին կամաց կպատմեմ ես պատմությունը իմ,

Ու կխնդրեմ նրան քեզ թողնել կորած երազը իմ,

Դանդաղ, մեղմ շշուկով եկավ աշունը թով:

 

Ու այդ աշունը գույներով ինձ կախարդեց, կախարդեց ինձ,

Սիրտս իրեն վերցրեց:

Ու այդ աշունը սերենադ ինձ նվագեց,

Ու քամին մեղմ սերս տարավ…

 

Վերադարձի՛ր իմ արև դու աշնան,

Բե՛ր ինձ գույներ, բե՛ր երազանք:

 

Աշունը դեղին գույներով ինձ կախարդեց, կախարդեց ինձ,

Սիրտս իրեն վերցրեց:

Ու այդ աշունը չնայեց այլևս քեզ,

Սերս տարավ անհետ…

Սերս տարավ անհետ…

 

I Need to Know – Marc Anthony

I Need to Know – Marc Anthony

 

They say around the way you’ve asked for me
There’s even talk about you wanting me
I must admit that’s what I want to hear
But that’s just talk until you take me there oh

If it’s true don’t leave me all alone out here
Wondering if you’re ever gonna take me there
Tell me what you’re feeling cause I need to know
Girl you’ve gotta let me know which way to go

Cause I need to know
I need to know
Tell me baby girl cause I need to know
I need to know
I need to know
Tell me baby girl cause I need to know

My every thought is of this being true
It’s getting harder not to think of you
Giel I’m exactly where I wanna be
The only thing is I need you here with me – oh
If it’s true don’t leave me all alone out here
Wondering if you’re ever gonna take me there
Tell me what you’re feeling cause I need to know
Girl you’ve gotta let me know which way to go

Cause I need to know
I need to know
Tell me baby girl cause I need to know
I need to know
I need to know
Tell me baby girl cause I need to know

Israel Small but Outstanding

 

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel’‎”

Israel, a small country of outstanding beauty, is so many different things:

It is a bridge between Africa, Asia & Europe, It has pulsating urban life, breathtaking nature, an abundance of plant & animal species, Thousands of years of fascinating history, a rainbow of cultures and traditions.

Israel offers an energizing experience with a vibrant cultural scene, and is proud to be an innovative leader in science & High-Tech.

Sounds too much? you’ll believe it when you see it.

Death Is Nothing At All

By Henry Scott-Holland

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

 

 

The Autumn of our love – Siro Ashun

Mihran Kalaydjian The Autumn of our love – Siro Ashun

Lyrics: Aline Najarian
Music and Arrangement : Joseph Keyrouz
Music and Arrangement : Elias Keyrouz
Record Labels: Paramount Studios

Mino Element Band Members

Aram Kasabian – Lead Guitar
Sevan Manoukian – Drummer
Hratch Panossian – Bass
Samer Khoury – Violin
Tony Amer – Saxophone
Haim Cohen – KeyBoard
Albert Panikian – Trumpet
Nicole Del Sol – Percussion
Dana Debos – Trombone


Mer Siro Ashune (The Autumn of our love)
Do you think the rain’s been drumming on your window all day long?
It’s the words of my repentance, falling down drop by drop.
See them, rolling down the glass and down into the endless brine;
Words that only you can hear in this belated song of mine.

What is this confession now, overdue regret, – for what?
Love has always been a riddle that I never can decode.
It was autumn that was mocking, slapping me with faded leaves,
And the girl that kept on weeping silently among the trees.

Only now I understand: the past shall not be back again.
It’s for sins that I’ve committed that I’m being made to pay.
For that weeping girl, that autumn are the fortune that I’ve lost.
Heedless deeds of wild youth is what I now regret the most.

We all know that happiness can only come a single time.
It then promptly disappears, leaves its business card behind.
We then seek it everywhere, we go on looking all our lives,
But the address on the card is one that no man ever finds.

—————————————-­—————————————-­——

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use

© 2015 Paramount Studios& Element Band All Rights Reserved

 

love

Mihran Kalaydjian Playing My Ballerina – Special Melody

Mihran Kalaydjian Playing My Ballerina
Location: San Francisco, CA

Recording & arrangement: Paramount Studios

Honor Guest: Armenian Guitarist Sevan

Mino Element Band Members

Aram Kasabian – Lead Guitar
Sevan Manoukian – Drummer
Hratch Panossian – Bass
Samer Khoury – Violin
Tony Amer – Saxophone
Haim Cohen – KeyBoard
Albert Panikian – Trumpet
Nicole Del Sol – Percussion
Dana Debos – Trombone

My Little Ballerina
Graceful
Beautiful
Angelic

My little ballerina
Happy
Intelligent
Alive

My little ballerina
Precious
Loving
Amazing

My little ballerina
Sweet
Gentle
Adoring

My little ballerina
I’ll hold you
Forever
Until the end
My Little Ballerina

 

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use

© 2015 Paramount Studios& Element Band All Rights Reserved

 

The Real Neat Blog Award

 

Once again I’m humbled to have been honored with a nomination for The Real Neat Blog Award  by not just one, but two awesome blogs!  Every blog award I receive means so much to me, it really does!

I have been presented with a wonderful little blog award by the incomparable Ritu Bhathal, a talented author of smexy historical romances,a  raconteur and all round fabulous gal. She has passed the baton over to me to be another  keeper of the Real Neat Blog Award.

– Huge Thanks to the awesome Ritu Bhathal-

Awarded 27/3/15

Well, anyway…
Here are the rules:

  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
  4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
  5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

 

To Ritu Bhathal – I am deeply grateful and humbled by this honor.

Thank you

https://butismileanyway.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/the-real-neat-blog-award-2/