Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life

Language and Story: TESOL, Puebla, and the Story Catcher Writing Workshop

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Puebla, México © Mary Scholl

Puebla, México © Mary Scholl

“Language is a flash of the human spirit.” ~ Wade Davis

Language and story fills winter’s edge of an ever-elusive arrival of spring. I look out my window to see whispers of snow edging the grass tufts. “It’s the end of April,” I say to the winds. “Enough cold already.” The prairies of South Dakota anticipate snow in the upcoming week. Back to language and story.

Butterfly ©animals.wallpaperklix.com

Butterfly ©animals.wallpaperklix.com

Earl Shorris describes language in The Last Word—“Of all the arts and sciences made by man, none equals a language, for only a language in its living entirety can describe a unique and irreplaceable world. I saw this once, in the forest in southern Mexico, when a butterfly settled beside me. The color of it was a blue unlike any I had ever seen…There are nine different words in Maya for the color blue in the comprehensive Porrúa Spanish-Maya Dictionary but just three Spanish translations, leaving six butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya, proving beyond doubt that when a language dies six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the earth.”

There are those who dedicate their lives and work to the power of language, the inherent human right to speak our mother tongue, and the years of research that demonstrate that additional languages are learned most effectively after children become highly literate and fluent in their mother tongue. 

BEIS Academic Panel

BEIS Academic Panel—me, David Freeman, Chair Sandra Mercuri, Yvonne Freeman, María Brisk, Joan Wink, Virginia Collier, and Wayne Thomas

A group of such people gathered March for the TESOL International Convention in Portland, OR for our Bilingual Education Interest Sections (BEIS) “Celebration of 40 Years of Multilingualism Within TESOL.” BEIS Chair, Sandra Mercuri, and myself, Chair-Elect, savored our opportunity to honor people whose contributions to the field over the past 40 years have affected the lives of thousands: David and Yvonne Freeman, María Brisk, Joan Wink, and Virginia Collier & Wayne Thomas. It was a celebration of multilingualism and multiculturalism—a feast for the spirit!

Lovers of language and teaching gathered in Puebla, Mexico where 65 teacher educators from all across Mexico, hosted by the US Embassy, COPEI, and Centro Espiral Maná, came together for three days of teaching intensives in workshop design, a love of teaching, and more than a bit of laughter and friendship, culminating in each of us expressing Why Do I Do What I Do? For individual photos that convey the heart of an authentic life, here are our individual expressions of why we do what we dowhich leave me both humbled and inspired.

Why Do I Do What I Do?

Why Do I Do What I Do?

 

Dulces tradicionales de Puebla (traditional candies of Puebla).

Candies of Puebla

Talavera

Talavera de Puebla

Three days of sinking into teaching, the discovery of newfound friends, the gift of coming together around shared passions.

The Embassy sent us home with beautiful talavera plates filled with dulces tradicionales de Puebla (traditional candies of Puebla). This was a special treat for our Friday Night, Family Night and is now a piece of beauty to be treasured.

Language expresses story and story expresses our world.

Christina Baldwin writes, “Story—the abundance of it, and the lack of it—shapes us. Story—the abundance of it, and the lack of it—gives us place, lineage, history, a sense of self. Story—the abundance of it, and the lack of it—breaks us into pieces, shatters our understanding, and gives it back over and over again, the story different every time. Story—the abundance of it, and the lack of it—connects us with the world and outlines our relationship with everything. When the power of story comes into the room, an alchemical reaction occurs that is unique to our kind: love or hate, identification or isolation, war or peace, good or evil can be stirred in us by words alone. The power of story is understood by the powerful, yet the power of story belongs to all of us, especially the least powerful. History is what scholars and conquerors say happened; story it what it was like to live on the ground.”

Storycatcher posterIt is this power of story that belongs to us all that has me thrilled to join the Story Catcher Writing Workshop and Festival this June 10-13th. “Set in the beautiful Pine Ridge Region of Northwest Nebraska, we present a mix of hands-on workshops, critical feedback, and inspiring instruction from acclaimed authors and teachers who are passionate about writing and can help you get published!”

Passionate about writing. Passionate about story. Passionate about language. Passionate about the land. Join us.

As the alchemy of language, writing, story, teaching, and travel swirls together, what lifts again and again to my mind are the individual faces and stories—the heart that underlies teaching and writing, and what gifts these are to the world.

Gratitude.

Dawn - End of TESOL

Dawn – End of TESOL

Mom took this photo at the end of the TESOL Convention. It was the end of a long day and an even longer preparation for all. It rained throughout our time Portland. I’d forgotten there were places where one needs an umbrella. Mom and I sat looking out the window at the rain— and for that brief moment in time, what needed to be done had been finished and the long lists of what was yet to be done could wait until morning. It was one of those rare moments of a contented exhaustion.

I know you know this feeling well.

Here’s to you, teachers, writers, readers, lovers of life!

Together, we can do this.

* * *

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Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of language, culture, and place.

11 thoughts on “Language and Story: TESOL, Puebla, and the Story Catcher Writing Workshop

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  4. Dear Dawn, I’ve just dived into your blog and it’s simply lovely. You are very thoughtful at every experience you have, and I’m fortunate to have met you. How about the alchemical reaction coming into the room with the power of story? Christina Baldwin portrayed this power pretty well. It belongs to all of us.
    I Hope you have a wonderful time at Story Catcher Writing Workshop and Festival!
    Keep on inspiring love for what we do.
    Best wishes,
    Miguel

    • Dear Miguel,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to connect here! Yes, the alchemical reaction coming into a room with the power of story. Even as I read what you wrote, I felt that happening. Thank you and thank you. It does belong to us all.
      Hugs to you!
      Dawn

  5. Dear Dawn, Thank you for sharing the pics from Puebla. ….. additional languages are learned most effectively after children become highly literate and fluent in their mother tongue.” I’d like to read more about this. I have read that it is best to learn a second language at an early age (before 7 years of age). Best, Ana Vega

    • Dear Ana Luisa,
      Ah, beautiful Puebla and our amazing time there together. Yes, so much to read about second-language acquisition. I’d start with anything by Jim Cummins, Steve Krashen, Virginia Collier & Wayne Thomas, David & Yvonne Freeman. You’ll find lots of their work on the web. I’d love to talk about any and all. Just pop me a note to my email. Actually, learning a second-language can be learned effectively well beyond that young age. You’ll read about that, too, with those writers. 🙂 Smiles, Dawn

  6. Dearest Dawn, Thank you for sharing your stories and thoughts with us. Dewdrops is such an appropriate name… like the dawn, the beginning, a new fresh day. Your posts always leave me feeling such optimism. Much needed and appreciated! Hugs, Missy

    • Dearest Missy,
      Oh, and your beautiful note was much needed and appreciated on this end! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your amazing spirit across the miles. What a bright, happy light for me and so deeply appreciated. Much love, Dawn

  7. Dear Dawn, what a beautiful picture of Puebla. Although my instructional aide, Bertha, often told me about her home in Puebla she had no pictures. Your inspiring post brought to mind many things. I had not previously heard of Earl Shorris and immediately looked him up online. I have added Mr. Shorris to my “must read” list of books. In his quote regarding the many words for “blue” in the language of the Maya I also thought about the many words for “snow” in the language of the Inuit. Regarding communication in general I couldn’t help but think about the PBS documentary from “Nature” that I was recently privileged to watch and share in a discussion about, “What Plants Talk About”. The film describes and explains the work being done to learn how plants communicate with each other and with their environment. This leads me to think about communication between and among all sentient/living beings. You wrote, “. . . additional languages are learned most effectively after children become highly literate and fluent in their mother tongue.” How true and how sad that the majority of educators and departments of education across this country do not understand this. Language, communication, stories – what amazing power this holds throughout the entire cosmos and how we as humans take communication for granted.

    • Dear Lindy,
      Isn’t that photo of Puebla just stunning? My dear friend and colleague, Mary Scholl, took this one morning during our time there. I just loved, as well, and asked if I might share. So grateful to give images to Bertha’s home for you. Yes, Earl Shorris – definitely a “must read.” I loved read of “What Plants Talk About” and all this conveys around communication for the world. I hadn’t heard of that series. Thank you! And what you wrote here—”Language, communication, stories – what amazing power this holds throughout the entire cosmos and how we as humans take communication for granted.” Poetic and true. Thank you so much for this beautiful and powerful expression.
      Love to you,
      Dawn

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