How Stephen Krashen Saved My Job & Why He Still Wants to Save your Children

Chuck SandyChuck Sandy

I had a tough time in Mrs. Collard’s 2nd grade reading class. Though already a reader with books of my own at home, the skill-based phonics worksheets we were doing in class made no sense to me. Still I struggled along. After one particularly tough day with the worksheets, Mrs. Collard called my mother in to explain that she’d be moving me from the top reading group, the Bluebirds, down to the bottom group, The Sparrows, because I didn’t “get it.” I was devastated, but my mother was just confused. “How could that be? He loves books,” my mother exclaimed. “Maybe so,” said Mrs. Collard, “but he can’t read. Look how poorly he did on these worksheets”. And so my mother looked. Then to Mrs. Collard she said, “but this isn’t reading. This is nonsense” and to me “come on, let’s go” and she took me to the public library and got me a library card. “Now this,” she said, leading me through that room full of books, “this is reading. You can choose up to six books to take home. I’ll be back in an hour.” I went on to eventually read almost every book in that library and came to feel more at home there among books then I ever felt in school.

I tell you this story not just because it’s what launched me into my own work in education, but also to show that even back in 1967 when I was in 2nd grade, schools were busy turning reading instruction into a school subject and by doing so needlessly complicating the whole process. People like my mother recognized this, but the general public became increasingly convinced that the teaching of reading was a science best left to specialists and that education was in crisis because test scores showed that literacy rates were on the decline. No one much ever stopped to consider that this crisis might have originated in the increasingly complicated instruction. Before too long this complicated instruction had became so ingrained in schools that it was almost heresy to call it nonsense.

Fortunately, by the time I got to grad school and later started working in education myself, there were a few researchers brave enough to call out the nonsense. That day in 2nd grade and my years in the library made the work of Kenneth “we learn to read by reading” Goodman, Frank “reading without nonsense” Smith, Tracy “natural approach” Terrell, and Stephen “comprehension hypothesis” Krashen really resonate with me. In fact, reading their work changed my life – especially the work of Krashen. Not only were these researchers unafraid of calling nonsense nonsense, they also had increasingly massive amounts of data to prove it was nonsense. They were (and are) my heroes. I’ll leave it to you to read the research, and I’ll tell you where it led me.

Steeped in all this, determined never to be a Mrs. Collard, and fresh from reading Krashen and Terrell’s The Natural Approach, I found myself in Tokyo in 1984, newly hired by a college to put together an English Language program and given the freedom to pretty much do whatever I wanted. What I wanted in those pre-internet days was for the school to subscribe to multiple copies of fifty different magazines on a wide range of topics and buy a few thousand paperback books. In addition to building a library of interesting books students could borrow, my idea was for each of the twenty of so teachers I worked with to walk into class each day with a basket full of books and magazines, spread them out and say “find something good to read.” What I wanted to do was to run an almost pure free voluntary reading program in which everyone would have lots of time to read lots of interesting things and learn how to talk about the interesting things they read.

I worked for a few weeks on my plan and submitted it to my director of studies.

“How will we know that students are reading,” the director of studies asked?

“We’ll see them reading,” I answered.

“How will we know they’re understanding what they read,” he asked?

“We’ll ask them,” I answered.

“What about testing?” he asked.

“We won’t have any tests,” I answered.

“I’ll have to think this over and discuss it with others,” he said.

A few days later he came back and said something like “there are some who think that maybe you’re not ready to run a program, Mr. Sandy, but if you can prove that all this might be useful, I’m willing to listen”.

Happily, that was the year Stephen Krashen himself was one of the plenary speakers at the Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT) conference in Tokyo, and so not only did I give my DOS a copy of The Natural Approach, I invited him to join me at JALT to hear Dr. Krashen speak, and he did. After Stephen’s first plenary, my director of Studies leaned over and said, “that man makes good sense, and he’s funny, too”. By the end of the conference, he was so impressed by Stephen Krashen’s work that I not only got to keep my job but also got the money I needed to buy all those books and magazines, then went on to run that program for a couple of years, and learned much more than I can say here doing it. Thank you Stephen.

It’s now almost 50 years since I was in 2nd grade with Mrs. Collard, and more than 30 years since Stephen Krashen’s job-saving plenaries at JALT. It’s therefore sad to have to say that not only does the nonsense about reading instruction continue. It’s even sadder to have to say that it’s gotten worse. In this era of big data, high stakes testing, adaptive learning, and all that nonsense, the nonsense has become dangerous.

It’s therefore wonderful to be able to say that Stephen Krashen is still out there calling nonsense nonsense and providing the data to prove it’s nonsense. In all this time he’s never gone off message, even once. Thank goodness. Today, there’s much more at stake than just reading programs and somebody’s job as you’ll note in this interview with Stephen in Education Week Teacher titled “Stephen Krashen: Children Need Food, Health Care, and Books: Not New Standards and Tests” that I hope you’ll take a few minute to read:

Children Need Food, Heath Care & Books: Not New Standards and Tests

These are the stakes. The lives of our children are at risk and the solutions, as ever, actually are quite simple. Will people ever listen? Let’s hope so.

Get iTDi certified in teaching academic language with Stephen Krashen. Join Stephen Krashen for his iTDi Advanced Course THE Path to Academic English. Live sessions with Dr. Krashen begin February 7th. All classes are recorded.


Teachers As Students – Chuck

Learning To Play:  A Writing Lesson
Learned Late – Chuck Sandy

Chuck Sandy

Not long ago, I was agonizing over my inability to make progress on a writing project when I had to stop agonizing long enough to attend a meeting at the local international school.  Still, even during that meeting my mind remained busy with worry. As others discussed serious matters I thought: Why can’t I make headway on this project? What is it that’s blocking up my writing? Why can’t I stop thinking about this?  What’s wrong with me? What am I missing?

I excused myself, went out into the hallway to clear my head, and was looking at this display of work done by some primary school students when it hit me.

Playfulness. That’s what’s missing. Playfulness. How do I become playful and become – even at 55 – like a little child again? I got a drink of water, went back inside, and enjoyed the rest of the meeting. A little light had come on.

Later, a comment my university writing teacher, Winston Fuller, had made about my writing long ago floated up through my mind. He’d written something about playfulness, but what? I dug out the folder of writing that his comment was written in and read what Winston had written to me almost 35 years ago.  He wrote  …

“An intentional person is too effective to be a good guide in the tentative activity of writing. It takes a certain amount of irresponsibility to create. I think now that you have begun to take yourself seriously, you should also begin to take yourself playfully. What you need now is to play, to write for the joy of writing. You need to permit yourself to write foolish, insipid, revealing, and unoriginal junk. Stacks of it. For this very good reason: there is no way to get to the good stuff except by wading through mounds and mounds of the bad stuff.  At this point, Charles, if you’re not writing a lot of junk, you’re not doing your job.”

Why did it take almost 35 years to come back to this comment, and why did this all come together on an agonizing evening during my 55th year?  Well, maybe it’s because I haven’t been doing my job, have gotten even more serious than I was back then, and having reached a crisis in my writing am finally ready to learn this lesson. I could say more about all this, but instead of digging deeper and getting all serious again, I’ll show you the notebook I got started playfully writing in, share some writing activities I’ve been doing, recommend a few books, and tell you a story.

Ten Playful Writing Activities 

For each of these activities you’ll need a notebook, a pen, and 10 minutes.  Do them alone, with friends, or with students.  The mission is to write for 10 minutes without stopping, erasing, or crossing out. Don’t worry about being original, clever, or correct. Just write. No one’s going to see what you write unless you want to share it.  This writing is yours and it’s just for fun. If you’re still having fun after 10 minutes, skip a few lines in your notebook, and do another 10-minute writing activity. Ready?

  1. Write these words in your notebook: “I’m thinking of …” and then give yourself a moment to think. What is it you’re thinking about? Go!
  2. Begin like this: “I’m looking at …” and then have a look around where ever it is you are. What captures your attention? Focus on that.  Look some more. Then, start writing. 10 minutes. Go!
  3. Try beginning with either “I remember …” or “I don’t remember …” and see where this gets you. If you get stuck along the way, start again with “I remember” or “I don’t remember” and keep writing. Don’t stop. 10 minutes!
  4. Paint a word picture of an elementary school teacher you had. Use this person’s name. Start with “I remember” as in “I remember that Mr. Denz smelled like a campfire and I yet I never understood why until …”
  5. When was the last time you were really happy? Or afraid? Or embarrassed? Or angry? Or in love? 10 minutes. Get your pen moving.
  6. Write about coffee, ice cream, peanut butter, cheese, or oranges. Feel free to start with “I’m thinking about” or “I remember” but if you’re tired of those prompts try “I’ll never forget …” or “I can’t live without …
  7. Now that you’ve gotten used to 10-minute writing sessions, try reducing the time and see what happens. Is five minutes enough? How about three? Try both and see what works for you. Write about a song you can’t get out of your head, something you can’t forgive, a scar you have, a difficult student, something you can’t give up, somewhere you always wanted to go but didn’t.
  8. Write a 10-line poem. Begin with  “I’ll never forget _______” or “I wish I could forget _________ or “I try not to remember ______ ” or “Who can forget _______?” Don’t think too much. Just write. You’ve got 5 minutes. Go
  9. Write a 12-line poem in which each line begins with “I used to _______ and ends with “but now I _________.” Take 10 minutes if you’ve got 10 minutes. If not, five is enough.  If that’s enjoyable for you and you’ve got some more time, try again but this time change the pronoun to we, they, she, he, or it.
  10. You’re standing in a hallway. You’re looking at the top of a dresser. You’re sitting at the kitchen table. You’re looking up at the sky.  Chose one. Prose or poem. It’s up to you. 10 minutes. Get started and see where you wind up.

A Few Good Books On Learning to Write Playfully

You’ll surely come up with some writing prompts of your own, and if you’re doing this work with friends or students, they’ll have ideas, too.  For dry times, though, I’ve found these books to be great sources of ideas, activities, and advice.

Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider is a marvel.

Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg is full of writing prompts, common sense, and playful writing practice.

Although Rose Where Did you Get That Red by Kenneth Koch is really about teaching children how to read and write poetry, it’s also about how to teach yourself to do these very things. It’s fun, full of great ideas and rich with poetry.

My latest favorite is The Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement by Barbara Abercrombie which not only inspires and encourages, it also provides 365 mostly wonderful writing prompts.

Whether you’re interested in learning to write playfully yourself or wanting to incorporate fun writing activities into your classes, any or all of these books are worth exploring. They provide me with hours of fun, and I think that fun is helping me become a better writer.  I’m certainly writing a lot and finally doing my job.

A Way Forward and A Story About Beginnings

Once you’ve done enough playful writing that you’ve got a stack of it done, start going through what you’ve written and pull out a few pieces you’d like to either develop further or edit down.  I took one 3-page-10-minute-writing activity I wrote some time ago, cleaned it up, and edited it down to about 10 lines I posted on Facebook a while ago.  Today I edited it down a bit more. It’s not a particularly good piece of writing, yet, but it’s true and it launched me into who I’m now becoming as a writer, a teacher, and a person: A beginner again who’s still learning his lessons:

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning,” writes Meister Eckhardt. I underlined that line in the book I was reading. Then I thought, “Hah! How’s that supposed to work? I mean I’m 55 years old. Begin again? Doing what?” I set the book aside and busied myself in the garden. I trimmed branches. I cleaned out muck. I raked and bagged leaves. Ideas started coming. I sat down and made a list. Then, looking out I noticed a tiny bit of green coming up from under a dead plant in a cheap pot. I cut off what had died, set the pot on my table, and wondered what this little bit of green would become if I nurtured it. Would if flower? Would it even bear fruit? No telling, really. Not yet, anyway. I opened the book I’d set aside and found Meister Eckhardt saying “and suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” I laughed and underlined that, too. OK, I get it. New beginnings. I’m ready and I’m willing.

How about you?


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Movement, Rhyme and Rhythm in ELT – Chuck

Invitation Standing: Bring Poetry To Your Classroom
Chuck Sandy

Chuck Sandy
What is a poem? A poem, once read and internalized, is a song that’s meant to be spoken, that’s meant to be heard.  A poem is more than words, more than whatever meaning the words of the poem combine to make.  A poem is sound, rhythm, and cadence.  A poem is the poet’s voice arranged on the page in such a way that any reader can speak with the same voice, with the same rhythm, in the same way.

Please read the poem Invitation Standing by Paul Blackburn silently to your self.

BRING a leaf to me

just a leaf just a

spring leaf, an

April leaf


  • come


Blue sky

never mind

Spring rain

never mind

Reach up and

take a leaf and

  • come

just come.

Paul Blackburn (Invitation Standing)


Can you hear the rhythm of the words and the sound the words make? Notice the way BRING is capitalized. Notice the way each line breaks. Notice the comma between spring leaf and an. Notice the lack of commas otherwise. Notice the way the word come is set off by itself, a tab away from the left-hand margin. I ask you to notice these things because this is how Paul Blackburn shows us how the poem is meant to be spoken and heard. Say BRING in a louder voice than you do a leaf to me.

Speed through just a leaf just a before pausing a moment to say spring leaf, an / April leaf and then pause and put some emphasis on come.

Read the poem again only this time, read it out loud. If possible read it out loud to someone. Ask them to listen to the sound and the rhythm. Don’t ask them what the poem is about. Just have them listen. Can you hear the poem’s sound, rhythm, and cadence? Can they? My students can and then can read it to each other just the way it’s meant to be read – and so can your students.

Take any poem you find that’s full of sound and rhythm and read it to your students.
Take the poem This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams for example:


This Is Just to Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox


and which

you were probably


for breakfast


Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold


Tell your students you’re going to read them a poem. Tell them it’s a dictation and that you’d like them to write the poem out the way you speak it. Tell them that you want them to arrange the words on the page so that it looks like a poem.

Now read the poem out loud several times so they hear the pauses and know where the line breaks are. Pause longer between each stanza so they know there’s a larger space between them. Then, ask your students to compare the way they’ve written the poem out with a partner and to make any corrections they think should be made.  Give them a bit of time to do this before reading the poem out loud again.

Now, show your students the poem as written by William Carlos Williams, and have them make the necessary corrections. After they’ve done so, ask them to take turns reading the poem out loud in pairs a couple of times. After they’ve done this ask, “Can you hear all the s sounds in the poem?” and have them underline all the s sounds they hear:  plums, icebox, saving, breakfast, delicious, so sweet, so cold.

Then, if you want, get students walking around the room saying the poem to each other.  Tell them to be dramatic, to speak the poem as if they were speaking to someone  – and of course they are.

Bring everyone back together and either ask students to whom the poem was probably written and where it might have been left or just tell them: Williams wrote the poem as a note to his wife Flossie and left it on the refrigerator (icebox) door. Ask a question like “How do you think Flossie felt when she read this? How would you feel? Your students will come up with adjectives like annoyed, upset, angry, disappointed, dismayed, let down, and devastated. At least mine did.

And my students – no matter how often I’ve done this and no matter what group I’ve done this with – have never had any trouble taking the structure, sound, rhythm, and cadence of the poem, and using this to write their own versions.

My favorite student-written versions of this poem over the years have been:

This is just to say


I have finished

your homework

which you left

undone last light


and which

you were probably

never going

to complete.


Thank me.

It wasn’t easy.

But now

you’ll pass.

This is just to say


I have stolen

your boyfriend

who you left

alone this summer


and who

you were probably


to marry.


Forgive me.

He was so handsome,

so lonely

and now so mine.


Notice the creativity in those versions. Notice the way grammar has been shaped and used. Notice the sound and the rhythm. Note that this is language work.  Imagine the fun students have reading their poems out loud to each other.

Short poems can be memorized, versioned, acted out, turned into video stories like this beautiful film by Lam Thuy Vo or a stop-motion video like this one from Betsie Pie Baker.  There’s so much that can be done.

In addition to being sound, rhythm, cadence, and meaning, a poem is also a manageable chunk of language which students have little trouble managing to work with in some pretty incredible ways. Why don’t you give it a try with you students?

If you’d like to find some good poems to use, have a look at the Poetry 180 Project, the Favorite Poem Project or Popular Poems To Teach. If you’re working with young learners try  Funny Poems and Stories or The Twenty Best Poems For Kids.

Now back to the Paul Blackburn poem Invitation Standing. Could you memorize it? Could your students? Could they talk about why it was written and to whom? Could   they come up with their own versions of it? Sure they could.  So could you.

I’ll be talking more about using poetry in the classroom in my presentation for the iTDi Summer School MOOC.  I hope to see you there.


Join Chuck and more than 30 other iTDi presenters for the iTDi Summer School MOOC  live from July 20th to August 17th 2014.


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Myths, Beliefs, and Truth in ELT – Chuck

Be A Conduit of Possibility
– Chuck Sandy

Chuck Sandy
“I speak as a person, from a context of personal experiences and personal learnings.”   – Carl Rogers  (From On Becoming A Person )

I’ve seen it happen. A student gets it and her eyes light up. Someone who’s convinced himself he can’t learn does. The one who was going to drop out of school doesn’t. The class troublemaker becomes the class star. The stuck teacher gets unstuck. The village teacher who thinks he’s got nothing to offer becomes an internationally sought after mentor. The writer who believes she has nothing new to say turns out a beautiful piece of work. The teacher-trainer who’d given up after losing faith in just about everything recovers his faith and gets back to work.

How do those things happen?  I have no idea, and I’m not going to pretend that I do.

Even though I’ve played some kind of role in helping to nurture along the learning that’s led to those changes in behavior and belief, I cannot tell you exactly what that role was or exactly what I did to help it along. Therefore, I cannot tell you exactly how you could work those same changes in behavior and belief in the people around you. What I can tell you is that – based on my personal experience and learnings as a teacher – I know without doubt that such things do happen and that there are ways to increase the likelihood that they will happen. I also know you can do that, too.

I can also tell you that given the dramatic effect I’ve seen such changes have on a person’s life, I know without doubt that it’s worth tinkering with whatever combination of method, material, and approach might be available in in order to help spark its happening. I also know that if a teacher is willing to adopt an I believe learning is possible so I’m not going to reject anything that might work to reach this person mindset, then the sort of real learning that leads to changes in self-beliefs and behaviors within people becomes even more possible. The lives of the people I’ve seen this happen to while working with a teacher who’s adopted such a mindset is my living evidence of this. I am evidence of this myself.

I am that teacher-trainer who’d given up after losing faith in just about everything. Although I cannot explain exactly how I recovered it, I can tell you that it’s possible. I’ve done it  so I know you could do it, too. Maybe seeing how I’ve not only recovered my faith in the transformational power of learning and teaching, but even deepened it would spark something in you. Maybe seeing that I’m not only back to work, but am now working in ways I would not have even considered a year ago would help you begin to imagine what’s possible for you. I’m willing to be that conduit of possibility for you, but I don’t want you to ever think that my way is the right way. My way is just a way, and  I want you to find your own way. Still, I’ll tell you about my tinkering.

This past year I’ve tinkered with just about every kind of learning I could find until I  settled into an evolving set of practices I built into a revised framework for myself. I kept combining this with that until something clicked. Then each day without fail I did those things I’d found to be helpful and I didn’t give up. Some months later, I woke up to discover that whatever had gotten blocked in me had become unblocked.

Something worked.

If you ask me what it was that worked, I might tell you more about the things I’ve done, the people I’ve talked with, the books I’ve read, and the courses I’ve taken.  After hearing all that you might end up thinking, “woo that guy is out there,” and that’s fine. The point of me telling you about what I’ve done would not be to  convince you that you should do what I did. The point would be to help you see that change is possible – in our learners and in our selves- if we are willing to first believe that is is possible, willing to use whatever tools are necessary to make it possible, and willing to keep trying until something works. I cannot and won’t claim any more than that. I speak only as a person, from a context of my personal experiences and personal learnings.

Meanwhile, while I love evidence and abhor false claims, I have come to believe that so much of what’s involved in learning and teaching takes place somewhere so deeply within us and is so complex that it’s even difficult to talk about  – let alone measure, quantify and package. I have also come to believe that a successful learning experience within one person cannot ever be fully replicated within another.

Therefore, I’ve come to doubt any claim that any method, any approach or any set of materials works beyond the context and within the people in which it seemed to work — for whatever complex combination of reasons it might have. Yet, I am not about to reject the idea that a method, an approach, or a set of materials I don’t happen to personally embrace or understand does work. If someone tells me they’ve found an approach that will change my life and help students learn faster or better, I will doubt it, but I won’t doubt that they’ve found something that works for who they are and the people they work with. I might even go on to learn more about it. I might even try it. Rejecting the possible and dismissing what’s beyond my understanding is not my job.

I cannot tell anyone how to teach any more than I can tell someone how to live. When someone tells me they’ve been learning or teaching  in a way I don’t  embrace or understand and asks how to get better at what they’re trying to do, they’re not asking me to say “What you’ve been doing is wrong. There’s no evidence to support those practices. Stop doing that and start doing this.” They are asking for help and that’s not helpful. My job is not to invalidate their experiences and discredit their practices.

My job is to listen carefully. Then, based on what I hear, I might be able to connect the person asking with people doing work that could resonate. I might be able to suggest a course, a book, or a tool that could be useful. I might  go off and learn more about the way they’re learning or teaching before asking, “Have you  tried ____”?  Then, later  I could  follow up with further resources and encouragement and questions and ask to be kept updated on progress. That’s my job. That’s your job. That’s our job as teachers.

Our job is to offer our students and each other our selves, our presence, and our attention. Our job is to be conduits of possibility – people who open up ways that can lead to learning that can lead to change. Our job is not about convincing others of our own rightness and their wrongness. We’re not here to fix each other. We’re here to help each other and there is no correct answer or any right way.

There’s only possibility and when we open up possibility for someone her eyes light up, the one who’s convinced himself he can’t learn does, the one who was going to drop out of school doesn’t, the class troublemaker becomes the class star, the stuck teacher gets unstuck, the village teacher who thinks he’s got nothing to offer becomes an internationally sought after mentor, the writer who believes she has nothing new to say turns out a beautiful piece of work, and the teacher-trainer who’d given up after losing faith in just about everything recovers his faith and gets back to work.

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More Leadership – Chuck

Chuck Sandy

The Miracles of Community Leadership
Chuck Sandy


“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed.” – Rumi

Each and every day I am a witness to teachers working miracles of community leadership. I watch as they encourage the discouraged, empower the powerless, and welcome the stranger into their midst. I see them conquer fears, rise up out of depressions, take on new challenges, and grow in ways they not long ago considered impossible. When one does not have the skills needed to do the work that needs to be done, I watch as others step forward to offer their assistance.  When one falls back in need of rest and renewal, I watch as others step forward with open hand to say yes.  When one suffers the sort of loss that leads to clenched fists and a closed-up heart, I watch as others step in to lift that one back up. This is how leadership works in communities. We take turns doing what we can for each other, and we do it because we’re teachers and this is what we do. We build, we connect, we comfort, and we love. We hold each other. We don’t break faith. This is how we keep the lights lit, how we hold the sea back from engulfing us all.

“All right Chuck,” I can almost hear you saying, “but what does this have to do with me?” and I have an answer for you: everything.  If you’re a teacher, you’re working in a community of other teachers, and you’re a leader. If you haven’t recognized this fact yet, now is the time to raise your hand and say yes.  You’ve been called.  And yet, there are many ways to answer this call.

Please take a good long look at this photo that Luke Meddings introduced me to awhile back. While it may look like a stand of trees, it’s not. It’s a community of teachers. Keep this idea in mind as you answer the following questions for yourself:

1. Where in the community of teachers are you at this moment in your life? Are you one of the teachers on the left leading the way, one of the teachers hidden almost anonymously in the middle, or one of the fallen down teachers on the right. Are you happy where you are? If so, great. How could you help others be happier? If not, then what change could you make and who could you reach out to for help?

2. How many places in this community have you occupied at different times in your teaching career? Which place has been most and least comfortable for you? How could you help others in the community see that where they are now is not where they have to be? How could you help those who feel stuck where they are see the options they have? How could you help the lost get back on track?

3. Where in the community of teachers would you like to be in the future? Who in the community could help you reach this place? In what ways could you reach out to them for help? What could you offer in return? Who could you collaborate with and on what? Who’s doing a project that you’d like to be involved in? What would it cost you to reach out and take the one step you need to take to get one step closer to where you want to be?  What’s stopping you from doing this?

4. Who do you know who’s fallen down, gotten lost in the middle, or is out there on the left over-exposed, over-their-head, and in need of assistance? How could you help these people? What skills could you offer them? How could you lend a hand or shine a light? What comfort could you bring?

The ways I’ve seen the teachers I work with in the communities I am a part of answer these questions are the miracles I’ve witnessed, worked, and received. They are the miracles of community that happen when we embrace our connectedness, accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and work together in the all the ways we’ve been called to work together.  We’re all capable of working these miracles.  We’re also all worthy of being the recipient of them.  It’s not just about helping others. It’s also about allowing others to help us. This give and take is what keeps us all from becoming paralyzed in place like a stand of trees.

This is how leadership works in communities. It is what we are called to do and be. We are teachers working in community. We are leaders called to serve. This is why we must raise our hand and say yes. Everything depends on this. As James Baldwin writes “one must say ‘yes’ …for nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.


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