“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.
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.
A group of such people gathered March for the TESOL International Convention in Portland, OR for our Bilingual Education Interest Section‘s (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 do, which leave me both humbled and inspired.
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.”
It 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.
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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