Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life


WORDHARVEST Webinars for Writers


Those of you familiar with Wordharvest’s Tony Hillerman Writers Conference know of the incredible community of writers of all genres who have gathered for this conference through the years. Wordharvest, founded by Anne Hillerman and Jean Schaumberg, is now expanding our community and the opportunity to attend a conference virtually through webinars on the craft and business of writing.  

At the most recent Hillerman Conference, one of my great takeaways of information and ideas came from Bill O’Hanlon’s workshop on “The Anatomy of Engaging Stories: Elements That Make Readers Keep Reading.” His engaging style and personality kept the information relevant and energy-filled.

I scribbled loads of ideas in my writing journal.

In the spirit of paying it forward, my colleague and Wordharvest faculty member Bill O’Hanlon now brings his expertise and energy to teaching a webinar for writers that I think will interest you:

C.A.R.V.E. Your Platform for Greater Visibility and Income: 
5 Elements That Can Move Your Book Sales to the Next Level

Publishing’s favorite buzzword these days is Platform.
But what is Platform and how do you create a great one to move your readership and success to the next level?

Saturday, May 7th

2:00 pm MDT (Mountain Daylight Time)
One-hour webinar with live Q&A at the end of the hour

Bill O’Hanlon is a dynamic presenter.
This informative talk is invaluable for writers of fiction and non-fiction who have a finished book or manuscript.

For More Information and Registration:


Bill O’Hanlon is a prolific author. With 35 books published to date, he is eager to coach writers on how to get their books into publication. I’m a tremendous fan. His experience and enthusiastic teaching style are positive encouragement that others can write their books and get them published.

I hope you will take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Dawn Wink

Layers of clouds over Santa Fe.

Layers of clouds over Santa Fe.


Of Women, Writing, and Wildflowers: Story Circle Writing Conference

Texas Bluebells and

Wildflowers—Texas Bluebonnets and Gallardia along morning run.

.…Help us to bring darkness into the light,
To lift out the pain, the anger,
Where it can be seen for what it is—
The balance-wheel for our vulnerable, aching love.
Put the wild hunger where it belongs,
Within the act of creation…

May Sarton, Without Darkness, Without Light…An Invocation to Kali

Guitar greeting in airport.

Guitar greeting in airport.

A community of women writers gathered together in Austin, TX for the Story Circle Writing Conference.

First, this is what happens when a women’s writing community flocks to a single hotel—and the hotel management is kind enough to respond beautifully, and convert the Men’s bathroom into another Women’s for the duration of the conference. Bravo!

Women's Bathrooms

Bathroom conversion

Urinals with flowers










I was especially grateful for this time, as many of the women I’ve known purely through our internet community and had never met in-person. What a gift to now have faces and spirits to accompany the names on our emails! These days were a time of deep community, and deep laughter and love, deep wisdom on the craft and business of writing: 

Brooke Warner

Brooke Warner, She Writes Press

Brooke Warner, of She Writes Press, kicked off our time together with her insights on the Five C’s of writing:  

1) Community: Support one another and thrive. Work and women thrive in community.

2) Commitment: Page after page. A time will come for everyone.

3) Championing:  Champion your writing, champion other writers.

4) Claiming: We have to claim. No one will give you time to write.

5) Courage: Listen to the calling. 

“Author your story, author your life. This is why women need a writing space of their own.”

Outrageous Requests

Debra Winegarten, Outrageous Requests

Story Shaper, Debra Winegarten, author of Oveta Culp Hobby and a book of poetry (among many other books) with one of the best titles ever There’s Jews in Texas? shared her passion for writing and life by starting her presentation with all of our dancing to It’s all about those Books

One of the ways Debra lives her passion for writing, books, and life is her ritual of Outrageous Requests, which she makes weekly. These requests have opened previously only imagined doors within the writing world.

One of my great take-aways from this conference is to fold this rhythm into my own writing life. I’ll keep you posted this. Perhaps you might join me. 

Susan & Dawn SCN 2016

Susan & Dawn SCN 2016

Susan J. Tweit and I shared our ideas and experiences with “Character as Place” something we are both passionate about.  Here is the presentation I promised to include: Place as Character. Story Circle 2016

Susan and I curled up over hot chocolate and cafe latte to review the final edits of our essay, “Mother Tongues: Two Writers Explore the Words and Cultures that Shape their Connection to Place” in the upcoming issue of Langscape

Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert

Story Circle creator, and New York Times bestselling author, Susan Wittig Albert spoke of the importance of women writing together in community, of the gender bias in the publishing industry. “This bias goes back centuries. Women’s voices have not been as important as men’s throughout history. Women write in community. Women share life stories. These life stories and women’s writing has historically not been valued by the publishing industry.

Women authors receive letters from publishers with feedback such as, ‘This novel would be better with a male protagonist.’ When you look at the statistics of winners of the Pulitzer, the Booker, they are overwhelmingly male. The gender bias extends to book reviews, contests, job opportunities within publishing. Women writers need more champions.”

Thus, Albert created Story Circle, a community that supports and connects women writers. “We thrive in community, in collaboration. We are literary citizens. Communities work best when all play the part of givers, as well as receivers. We do this by paying it forward.” 

Speaking of paying it forward, I have to share a wonderful class starting soon, “Consider Birds: Trading Anxiety for Peace of Mind” taught by Jodi Shaw. Meadowlark will be featured in the course and I get to pop in virtually via video to be a part of the class. Jodi is an incredible artist and inspirer.

She is currently at work on a piece inspired by “song” in Meadowlark. Jodi wrote, “The altered guitar is inspired by a passage in Dawn Wink’s novel Meadowlark between the heroine Grace and her dear friend Daisy. It is all about living your song, which to me means being true to who you are. It celebrates song, authenticity, and the South Dakota prairie.”I can’t wait to see what she creates. Jodi creates magic, beauty, and inspiration through her work.

Song, Artist Jodi Shaw

Song, Artist Jodi Shaw

Consider Birds, Jodi Shaw

Song, Jodi Shaw

Artist, Jodi Shaw

Artist, Jodi Shaw

I returned to Santa Fe to write, run, and muse on all. Let’s all go out and pay it forward, make outrageous requests, champion yourself and others—and listen to the soul of the land. 

Friday evening run with Clyde.

Friday evening run with Clyde.



TESOL 2016 – Language, Culture, Identity, and Love

Baltimore Harbor

Baltimore Harbor

At the recent TESOL International Conference in Baltimore, we dove into ideas around Language, Culture, and Identity in roundtable panel discussion in a session created by Dr. Francisco Ramos.

BEIS Roundtable

Manka Varghese, Alsu Gilmetdinova, Francisco Ramos, Dawn Wink, Eric Dwyer, Constantine Ioannou

Francisco sent we panelists the questions and guiding quotes to muse ahead of time:

     – What factors play roles in the loss of minority languages?
     – Is this the reality around us?
     – Is it possible to revert this trend?
     – Can we save/Is it worth saving each and every language?
     – Can culture be taught?
     – What is won and and what is lost when we relocate?
     – Do we really manage to belong?
           o “Acoma is home, but I don’t live there” (Simon Ortiz)
     – In order to fit in in a group:
          o Do you need both culture and language or is knowledge of culture enough?
     – Do we feel/act differently depending on the language(s) we use? Why?
     – Can a name change affect/impact who we are?
     – “So, what happens when one combines a deep sense of place with a sense of exile within one’s own home?” (Dawn Wink)

FlagsOf course, these ideas make my own heart beat wildly. If these ideas interest you, grab a pen and scribble your own thoughts to the guiding questions and quotes. Here is the full PPT created by Francisco: Roundtable_Questions copy

“There is a reason why the language we inherit at birth is called our mother tongue. It is our mother, forgiving, embracing, naming the world and all its emotions. Though I have lived for the last forty years in cities where English or French is the language of the majority, it’s Bangla that exercises motherly restraint over my provisional, immigrant identity.” ~Bharati Mukherjee 

This is an especially poignant quote for all human reasons, and for me at TESOL as my own mom introduced me to TESOL years ago. In the intervening decades, the conference has almost always fallen on the week around our birthdays and we’ve celebrated our birthdays together in various states and convention centers. 

With Mom on 27th floor above the Harbor.

With Mom on 27th floor above the Harbor.

Road to Atall School © Joan Wink

Road to Atall School © Joan Wink

This year Mom spoke onBreaking Borders with Stories: Birth to Death.” I was thrilled to be asked to introduce Mom, as the creator of my own birth story. 

Mom shared many stories, including of two young boys from the Congo; Missy and the Most Magnificent Thing in a one-room school house (K-8) in South Dakota, and:

Why Stories

Mom, Baltimore Harbor.

Mom, Baltimore Harbor.

•  To break borders, even our own self-imposed borders;

  • •  To affirm identity;
  • •  To capture a moment in time;
  • •  To create our shared heritage;
  • •  To access language and literacy;
  • •  To teach.

The human brain favors stories or the narrative form as a primary means of organizing and relating human experience. Stories contain large amounts of valuable information even when the storyteller forgets or invents new details. ~ Leslie Silko, The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir

Sandra Mercuri

Sandra Mercuri

This year’s TESOL Conference leaves me amazed on many levels. As I flew back across the states and thought of this year’s conference, I thought of the richness of ideas, the depth of reflection and dedication, the amazing contexts in which people teach, all of our amazing students, and the life stories of so very many of us filled with both beauty and the acute challenges that reflect the human costs of the bureaucratization of education. 

Underlying all lies love

Mary Scholl

Mary Scholl

As important as the new ideas, the research, the pedagogy and methodology—is the community, friendship and love that come together during this time. Amidst the presentations, we found each other to catch up on the past year, to hug and share, to walk the harbor and talk about life, to talk about upcoming life decisions when there is no easy answer, to toss out ideas about the future, to connect. We texted, “Where are you?” “Coffee?” “I’ll find you.”

This is what sustains, this is community, this is as important as any new research or ideas—friendships filled with shared experiences and roots across the miles and years, heart connections.
Francisco & Juliet

Francisco Ramos & Juliet Luther

Again and again my students ask, “How can we make it in education? What keeps a teacher going?” I tell them that it is the relationships with other kindred spirits, in-person and in writing through their books and our correspondence, it is the professional/personal community that remind us that we are not alone, that we walk a shared path—it is the friendships, the community, the connections that sustain and enrich. Without these, I cannot imagine I would have made it. I encourage students again and again to stay in touch, create that community, and pour energy into those friendships and into this community. These friendships remind us of what is real, what is important in education, where are heart lies. They are our True North stars.

Already ideas and plans for next year’s conference in Seattle. Here’s to community, language, culture, identity and love!
Dawn taking photo

Doing what I do, taking photos. © Joan Wink

Baltimore Harbor

Baltimore Harbor


Cara Esquivel: Extraordinary Spirit


Cara Esquivel in her beloved Oaxaca

Cara Esquivel in her beloved Oaxaca

If we don’t speak up for the people in our society that are not represented, then we do not have a society that is fully engaged and functioning and healthy. And to me it’s very simple, we all have a responsibility for seeing how we can help people in society that are not able to either help themselves or not able to speak up, or don’t have rights…all of the things that my father did were to defend people’s rights, so I guess that just in me. To me, I don’t understand any other way of being.

– Cara Esquivel

Dios no sabe lo que le espera. (God doesn’t know what awaits). So began the eulogy for the extraordinary Cara Esquivel and amidst the tear-streamed faces and hands clutching sodden tissues within the sanctuary, there were smiles from those who knew and loved her, Cara’s among them. Cara of passion, Cara of love, Cara of life, and Cara of energy. Dios no sabe lo que le espera. Last week, an extraordinary woman of incredible love, passion, and joy passed away unexpectedly and far too young from complications that started with the flu. Cara was 47 years old, a fiercely loving mother of her four children and wife to her husband, tireless advocate, lending her voice for those unheard, passionate teacher, and second mother to many of her students.

Cara and her family

Cara and her family

As word spread of her passing, Cara’s spirit shone through in the outpouring of love. 

Altar for Cara © Giselle Piburn

Altar for Cara © Giselle Piburn

Cara on Window

Altar for Cara © Jennifer Nevarez

Altar for Cara © Jennifer Nevarez

So laden was the altar with candles, that in true Cara-style, it caught fire, bringing fire engines to surround the school and dousing the Gathering Room in water, and a new altar created. Of the many words that describe Cara—passionate, fire-filled, irreverent, loving, funny….subtle is not one of them. As was demonstrated by the Celebration of Life held in her honor.

In loving memory

For Cara, a cuatro vientos (Four Winds) ceremony.

Four Winds Ceremony © Jennifer Nevarez

Four Winds Ceremony © Jennifer Nevarez

Cuatro Vientos ceremony

Cuatro Vientos ceremony

“In honor of my beautiful hummingbird,” her husband, David, paused and took a deep breath, “¡Que viva la fiesta!” Cara loved to dance and among papel picado, flowers, and piñatas, Cara’s community of friends and family of all ages danced.

Dancing for Cara

Dancing for Cara

David and Cara

David and Cara

We dressed in our finest to honor Cara’s love of color, texture, Oaxaca, and all things vibrant. “I thought maybe this was too much,” one friend said, stunning in her skirt decorated with mirrors and threads, a delicate crocheted shawl over her blouse. “Then, I realized, nothing is too good for our girl.”

Another friend wore her necklace, a hand-painted portrait of a young girl, ‘My own patron saint. For Cara.” The sheer energy of Cara’s spirit did rock the house.

Cara rocked the house.

Cara rocked the house. © Robert Jessen

The woman who told a first-year teacher, “Forget about the text books, get your students to write about their lives!” shines through in the memories of her students and loved ones.

We love you, Cara.

We love you, Cara

Zara's blackboard.

Blackboard 2

Middle of blackboard

Cara with basketCara blew into my own life over a year ago with her determination to create a program for teachers in Oaxaca. “No, but we really have to do this. Oaxaca is amazing! People need to understand the real Mexico, not the Mexico they read about on the news.” As anyone who knew Cara knows, there was simply no saying No. Her passion, dedication, and energy swept you up in their flow. Oaxaca, here we come!

“Cool,” the Head Learner at Monte del Sol High School said when he first met Cara, “Monte has its own Frida Kahlo.”

It is those small moments that one remembers—her radiant smile, her scarves flying around her, how she forgot to brush her hair, her love of Oaxaca, how she drew all into her energy of passion, love, and dedication. Cara cussed like a sailor in two languages, and usually mixed them together with wild abandon. Her eulogy with its reference to el “pinche güero” Trump would have her full approval. “She hated that wall. She spent her whole life trying to tear down that wall.”

Somos WindowA friend expressed beautifully what so many of us feel, “I woke up keen to the uncomfortable feeling that there is a hole in the world this week. An awkward and uncomfortable large empty space in my life, where Cara use to be. For a regular person in a regular body, though, the empty space she leaves behind is phenomenally large, much bigger than her physical form. It leaves me feeling pretty darn discombobilated … and oddly and persistently leaky. Now I am staring into blank space and thinking we had lots of good work to do together… and I miss her. And I don’t like the feeling of this hole. I dont like that I can’t just call her or see her bounding into yet another coffee shop for yet another life convergence (and listo meeting) over chai, missing that flurry of unbounded energy and passion. Its strange now. Like writing or reading a sentence with the main word missing. It’s confusing and disconcerting. I am writing about ……..! So very different that the same sentence that concludes with the word Cara. A word far bigger than itself. A word that defies definition amd limitation. A word that is hard to comprehend the magnitude of, unless you actually knew her. And of course, for most of us with a lust for life, to know her was to instantaneously love her, and somehow love life even more because of her. Its odd that she isn’t here to meet me for chai today. I am not sure now how to deal with this hole in the world now, and my heart. But I am drinking chai with my grandson, who is drinking milk and eating a bagel, and I am treasuring the precious tiny moments we have together, which is all I can manage to do today…”

Cara’s zest for life and sheer love expresses itself in her friends and family, as we find one another, recognize Cara in the other’s eyes, and knit together. A friend wrote, “It’s so good to be connected with you and other friends of Cara’s. She had gathered around her and her family such an incredible group of human beings.”

What those of us who knew and loved Cara return to again and again is the sheer disbelief that her energy is gone. Then, I realized, as I experienced the wild love that surrounded her, the impact she had on countless lives, those who will remain forever changed by her, that her energy, her spirit lives on—each time we choose to see the best in all, to believe in each person, to work tirelessly to make the world a better place, to dance, to laugh, and to LOVE. 

Dios no sabe lo que le espera. I have no doubt that God has had a real earful by now about the state of immigrant rights here on the mortal plane. I expect things to change imminently. If anybody can do it, Cara can.

I sat during the Mass and focused on the golden gilt surrounding the Saint painted high on the wall, glowing softly as the sun streamed in from the windows and tried to find meaning where there was none. The only way I can walk with something like this that makes no sense is to carry her spirit forward through our lives and our work. 

Cara with FridaLive passionately.  

Listen deeply.

Write your story and encourage others to write theirs.

Lift your voice for those unheard.

Live with intention.

Love deeply.

Ultimately, Cara taught us how to live

You will be forever missed and remembered, querida Cara.
Que Dios te bendiga. Te queremos.


TESOL — Online and in Oaxaca, México

Oaxaca, México

Oaxaca, México

TESOL Program – Online and in Oaxaca, México

I am thrilled to be a part of a collaboration between Santa Fe Community College and Language Institute for Sustainability and Transformative Education @ Oaxaca for teachers of students who speak languages other than English.

TV interview with more about the TESOL program specifics, students, and what you will experience in Oaxaca—immersing yourself in the language and culture of your students by living with a family, exploring outlying villages on the weekends, experiencing the vibrancy of the culture, languages, and people, and learning how to create academic and socio-cultural success for emergent bilingual students.

(Behind the scenes of the interview—Clearly, I had to wear a bright scarf to convey the vibrancy of the culture, people, languages, and land of Oaxaca!)

Teachers can now earn a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Certificate in as few as two semesters through online courses, coupled with professional language and cultural immersion through LISTO (Language Institute for Sustainability and Transformative Education) summer intensive classes in Oaxaca, Mexico. Teachers have a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the ancient and magical city of Oaxaca, while taking coursework and earning credits through Santa Fe Community College. In this Institute, teachers engaged in high-quality second-language pedagogy, intensive language training, and rich artistic, cultural traditions found in Oaxaca. Teachers meet for instruction Monday through Thursday, with long weekends to explore outlying villages, vibrant with contemporary and indigenous foods, textiles, pottery, and music. There are homestay or independent apartment housing options.

Oaxaca - Papel Picado

Oaxaca – Papel Picado


LISTO is a national model for training teachers to further develop cultural competencies and understand and engage English Language Learning students.


The purpose of LISTO for Teachers is to expose teachers to traditional cultures of Mexico to discover the cultural richness of the Spanish-speaking peoples of this hemisphere while engaging in effective second language pedagogy.


The Mission of LISTO is to bring teachers together in a language and cultural immersion program in Oaxaca, Mexico, to promote cultural understanding and build bridges with students upon their return to the United States.

Interested in earning your Bilingual Certificate? Earn 3 credits toward your Bilingual Certificate and participate in the month-long Spanish immersion program. Spanish credits can be earned as well, and a variety of Spanish levels are offered to meet your needs.

Why Oaxaca?

LISTO for teachers is based in and around Ciudad de Oaxaca, México, in a state with over 500 municipalities and 40 distinct languages in the southern part of Mexico, home to the spicy chocolate mole sauce, dances such as the Guelaguetza, traditional handmade clothes, black pottery and hand-woven rugs. Oaxaca is known for the vibrancy of the cultures and traditions of indigenous peoples. The people of Oaxaca are proud of their traditions, and still preserve them after 500 years of colonization and modernity. Near the city of Oaxaca are the ancient ruins of Monte Alban, coffee, banana and agave plantations, and numerous villages known for crafts such as woodworking or pottery.

Monte Albán

Monte Albán

Women of Oaxaca


We hope you will join us:

Specifics and Details about the Program


Contact information:

Tourimex - Oaxaca

Tourimex – Oaxaca

Cara Esquivel
Program Coordinator
(505) 603-1235

Santa Fe Community College
Dawn Wink
Director, Department of Teacher Education
(505) 428-1347

Bethany Muller, PhD
SFCC Teacher Education, Assistant Professor
(505) 428-1749

Silver City, NM

Silver City, NM

WRITERS: The upcoming Write and Retreat in Silver City, New Mexico (February 19 – 22) will be a time of deep writing, deep retreat, and deep friendship.


Wild Waters: Landscapes of Language

Tarahumara Skirts @ Curtis Doelle

The land spoke in the brilliant-colored layers of Rarámuri women’s skirts. @ Curtis Doell, 2012

Wild Waters: Landscapes of Language

                                                                                                                     Dawn Wink

          …in the bottom of a dark canyon, I stood in a shroud of voices. They spun up the canyon walls, radiating through the dusky interior…The voices were part of a complex language, a language that formed audible words as water tumbled over rocks, and one that carved sentences and stories into the stone walls that it passed…

          If you want to study water, you do not go to the Amazon or to Seattle. You come here, to the driest land. Nowhere is it drawn to such a point.

          In the desert, water is unedited, perfect.

                                     – CRAIG CHILDS, The Secret Knowledge of Water

The summer rain danced in sentences across the tin roof in the night. Shards of lightning rent the black fabric of the desert night, pulling thunder in its wake. Moisture misted in under the metal overhang, carrying the scents of creosote and wet earth. Another voice joined the staccato whispers on the roof—the rush of water down a nearby canyon. Cracks of rocks chimed into the desert’s conversation, as the water tumbled them across the canyon floor through blanket of night, rain, and thunder.

Cascabel Ranch, 1978

Cascabel Ranch, 1978

I was eight-years-old, and sat on the low stucco wall under the porch of our ranch house, my legs curled up in front of me and my back pressed against the rough stucco of the column behind. My younger brother sat across from me against the next column. Mom and Dad rocked on the front porch swing, the slow glide of the hook rubbing against the eye ring creaked its own rhythmic voice into the night. Lightning illuminated sheer bluffs rising above the river behind the house, their face lined with shadows of the crooked paths of water’s journey downward over thousands of years. The muddy, chocolate-colored waters of the nearby canyon poured into the northward bound river. The staccato whispers of rain on tin.

The desert speaks a symphony of sounds.

Fluidity. Nourishment. Destruction. Strength. Death. Life. All are commonalities that language and culture share with water. Here in the Southwest, the power of water underlies all.

Agua es vida. Water is life.

Reflections of memory. Cascabel bluffs. © Joan Wink, 1983

Reflections of memory. Cascabel bluffs. © Joan Wink, 1983

I grew up with this language on a cattle ranch in a river valley framed by sheer sandstone bluffs in the Sonoran desert in the southeastern corner of Arizona. Those bluffs frame my life—then and now. The San Pedro River runs north with water through the summer monsoon season, and with luck, through January and February. Most of the year, the river is a dry bed of satin sand, lying dormant in the carved forms created by run-off after the last rain. Tiny flakes of clay bake in the sun. When the much prayed for rains arrive, the riverbed and surrounding washes spring to life. Water stained a muddy brown moves along its bed, tracing familiar curves and paths and, forging new ones. The river rises on the parched land.

Growing up, my brother and I had few rules carved in stone, and instead explored our outer and inner landscapes with relative freedom. The rules we had, though, we understood were not to be breached:

          • Never climb into the corral if there’s a bull in there.

          • Always leave a gate as you find it.

          • Never, ever enter the river or a wash if it’s running. Every summer, tales of people   swept to their deaths punctuate the media of the desert.

Textures and colors of Rarámuri @ Curtis Doell

Textures and colors of Rarámuri @ Curtis Doell

Life eventually took me away from this ranch and immersed me not in the desert, but in languages and cultures. First, to Ciudad Chihuahua, Mexico, where the land spoke in the brilliant-colored layers of skirts of the Rarámuri women, lush mango on my tongue, and the pulsing thud of headaches as I struggled to understand and be understood. On to Spain, with its language of cobalt blue Talavera tile, the taste of dense olive oil melting into toasted bread, and shape of Andalusian mosques. Then to Germany, where language breathed from the throat, rather than rolled from the tongue. Here, language spoke in heavy scents of green hills and weight of history.

Twenty years came and went. Still drawn to language, I wrapped myself in its tapestry, followed their threads, drawn to their textures, colors, and how each felt on my tongue and in my ear. I taught bilingual education in the central valley of California, where my students included the children of migrant farm workers, who spoke only Spanish in their homes, the children of English-speaking parents who wanted their children to be bilingual, and I taught the teachers who worked with these students and more.

Language felt like the fine ridges of brightly-patterned oilcloth. @Dawn Wink, 2015

Language felt like the fine ridges of brightly-patterned oilcloth. @Dawn Wink

During these years, language felt like the fine ridges of brightly-patterned oilcloth beneath my fingertips and under my coffee cup, as memories of Mexico, of laughter and of tears mixed with the air and tingling nostrils from red chile enchiladas baking in the oven, and tasted on my tongue of warm arroz con leche, sprinkled with cinnamon and raisins. These years sounded of the rustle of polished suits at parent-teacher conferences with attorneys, doctors, and professors, and the sight of newspaper print held aloft to cover the face of the person who didn’t want to hear how to teach students who came to school speaking languages other than English.

Through it all, I yearned for the desert. “My home is a red desert that trembles with spirits and bones,” writes Amy Irvine McHarg in Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land. When I read this, a wave of emotion swept over me to curl me over and leave me clutching the book to my chest. So is mine, I whispered. So is mine. Until one day twenty-five years after that night of rain dancing on the tin roof, I returned to live in the juniper and piñon dotted high desert of northern New Mexico.

Back to the land where water is life or death. Back to the desert’s symphony of sounds.

* * *

Too many seek to silence the languages of the land. “Speak English!” bark voices in the desert now. I ran along a trail through the desert and jumped a narrow trench sluiced through from the run off of the rain of the day before. Like the water cutting through the earth, the national rhetoric and tone focuses on sweeping any language other than English, or any culture not deemed as “American” in some misrepresentation of history, away with it. The word ‘bilingual’ has been expunged from the vocabulary of the Department of Education, replaced now with ‘English Language Learner.’

While we hear how in order to compete globally, our citizens need to be bilingual, apparently that only means if you’re first language is English, and then you learn a second at some later point. What historically has taken three generations to acquire regarding acquisition of English, is now expected to be done by five, six, and seven-year-olds in nine short months.

The beloved borderland of my childhood seems intent on a downhill slide into intolerance and the politics of hatred. Anti-immigration rhetoric has reached new heights, and people are dying in the deserts by the hundreds. It’s now legal for police officers to pull over any person they think might not be in the country illegally.

Stella Pope Duarte, author of If I Die In Juárez, spoke of being pulled over in Phoenix by a police officer recently, who asked her, “So, how long have you been here ma’am?”

“Well, let’s see, on my mother’s side, we’ve been here about 20,000 years, and my father’s family were some of the original founders of Tucson. How about yourself?” she asked and smiled brightly.

Run through the desert

A run through the desert

The wet sand crunched beneath my running shoes, as I rounded a corner and climbed the rocky trail lined with the ashy green chamisa shrubs and juniper trees. Mile six slipped behind me, sweat ran out from under my cap and down the back of my neck, my thoughts filled with the tangled, sticky, love-and-hate-filled webs of language, how rife with humanity we all are, and all that brings with it. Language cannot be dissected into a totality of mere sounds and syllables, much as many current reading programs in schools would like to do so.

Language is love; Language is family; Language is memories; Language is our ancestor’s legacy to us.

Language is power.

* * *

San Pedro River © Annie Wilkinson

San Pedro River © Annie Wilkinson

When allowed its own life, water flows naturally. It will adapt, flow, follow the curves of the earth and rocks. It can nourish or destroy. As do languages. We are a land of many languages. We always have been. “Language expresses itself in the rivers,” writes Jay Griffths in Wild: An Elemental Journey. “Rivers flow like language—we say that someone is “fluent” in a language, their speech flows like a river. Languages, like rivers, run roughly the same course, but always change in their details; you never step into the same language twice, because the meaning has newly shifted here, a connotation has just been formed there. Rivers and language are both gloriously wild.”

The wildness of the land and the wildness of languages are intimately intertwined, the richness of one infuses the richness of the other. The loss of either diminishes the wildness of the other.

As the desert sun has warmed rocks over the centuries, the desert speaks in the language of water, of wind, and of rain. Speaks in the language of quail, and of mountain lions perched on ledges above a valley, the language of ants, of jaguars, and of blue butterflies, each named by its own unique shade. The land whispers in yucca pods rattling in the wind, and Nahuatl, Diné, Apache, Spanish, English of every brogue and lilt. The sun sets, the rocks cool, and the moon rises above the continued cadence of language and water, of the chorus yips of coyotes, murmured hushes telling loved ones good night in whatever language of the heart, and the soft gurgle of flowing water in the moonlight.

I listened to the desert.

I listened to water.

This is what I heard.



Langscape Volume 4

Langscape Volume 4

This essay was originally published in the journal Langscape, Volume 4, Issue 1, Summer 2015, The People’s Issue – Part One: Flows and Bridges.

I am especially over the moon with this publication, for Langscape’s focus on educating minds and hearts about the importance and value of biocultural diversity. The ideas from around the world, combined with the gorgeous photos and aesthetics of the journal as a whole, create a feast for the senses. For more information on their work, table of contents, how to become members, or purchase PDF or print copies, please visit their homepage here: Terralingua.

Wild Waters is a piece especially close to my own heart.



Reading Journeys: No Single Path

Reading together, 2003

Reading together, 2002

Reading Journeys: No Single Path

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.  It should be offered to them as a precious gift. —Kate DiCamillo

(originally published in Tumbleweeds, Summer 2015)

“Mom, I’m stupid.”

Wyatt slumped over a book at the kitchen table. Homework had become an ever-increasing experience in tears over the past year for my 7-year-old son in second grade. He wasn’t reading. He didn’t follow what research said he would do. Raised in a home filled with books, read to aloud for hours every day since birth, Wyatt should’ve been reading by now, according to all the research studies. Yet he wasn’t.

I didn’t understand what was happening, and the months slipped by. I talked with my mom, a professor in education and expert in literacy, for hours, trying to figure out what was happening. Nothing fit. What I did know is research that showed the most effective way to create a reader is pleasure reading and a balanced approach to instruction, which weaves together both a sight word and phonetic approach.

Redwall series, Brian Jacques

Redwall series, Brian Jacques

Wyatt bombed at standardized tests and prescribed reading programs. Yet we spent three hours a day reading aloud. He inhaled the Redwall Series, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings aloud. He LOVED to be read to. The mystery of what was happening grew. The school began talking about “reading intervention” programs. Everything in my 20 years of education and my maternal intuition told me that a prescribed reading program would extinguish any hope we might have of Wyatt not only learning to read, but loving to read.

I did something I never thought I’d do. I’ve spent 20 years working for and promoting education. I pulled Wyatt out of school in January of second grade—to read.

I wasn’t sure what we’d do, but I did know what we would not do. We would not test. We would not use a deadening prescribed reading curriculum that leaches away any relevancy or love of reading away through lack of context and story. Wyatt would never be forced to read aloud, in private or public. We would only read what Wyatt wanted to read.

Which brings us to my own paradigm shift. Mom, the professor in education, said to me over the phone one day, “He can’t read any of the books you read to him. They’re too hard.” I scanned our shelves of Tolkien, Jacques, the classics. Wyatt had the verbal vocabulary of a doctoral student of literature, but within these books there was nothing he could read. “I’m sending him the Captain Underpants series,” she said. My own literary snobbery reared its ugly head. “Mom, you can’t! The primary vocabulary word in those books is ‘poop!’”

Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

“I can. There will be a box addressed to Wyatt. When it arrives, you are not allowed to touch it.”

The box arrived. I gave it to Wyatt. He pulled the series of graphic novels for young children, the primary literary focus of which is the body sounds and functions that so delight young boys the world over. Filled with drawings, these books convey story even for a young reader who can’t read every word. I hesitantly began to read them aloud to Wyatt. He giggled, thrilled in the inappropriateness, pointed at the underwear – and delighted in reading. I left the books scattered randomly around the house, where he would find them.

Wyatt began to read. Captain Underpants, the weird little dude running around in his tighty-whiteys, did what no prescribed reading program or standardized test ever could: he drew Wyatt into the world of reading for the sheer pleasure of story. I heard him giggling as he read Captain Underpants’ mantra of success, “Tra-la-laaaa!”

Wyatt went back to school the fall of third grade. He’s been reading wheelbarrows full of books ever since. He soon made the leap from Captain Underpants to Harry Potter to J.R.R. Tolkien on his own, and I’ve long since lost track of the tomes of adventures, places, emotions and ideas that have become a part of him through reading. He is now a freshman at Adams State University in Colorado and continues a voracious reader.

 Which brings us to the prescribed curriculum and standardized testing so rampant in today’s schools. Research study after research study demonstrates the most effective way to create fluent readers is self-selected reading (pleasure reading!) and a balanced approach to literacy instruction.

Literacy occurs best for both kinds of learners, when it is relevant and meaningful. Relevancy, meaning and critical-thinking tend to be lost in prescribed reading programs. Research demonstrates again and again that self-selected reading (pleasure reading!) is one of the most effective ways to develop literacy. We don’t need more tests, we need more libraries and time every day in schools for students to read for pleasure. Let kids choose what they want to read and create time for them to do so.

This research includes children in this country whose primary language is one other than English. Research demonstrates that the most effective way for English Language Learners to learn to read in English is let them read what they want in whatever language they choose. Literacy in an additional language is based in literacy in the primary language. Want Spanish-speaking kids to read well in English? Let them read as much as possible in Spanish. We only learn to read once. Then, we apply that to whatever language we’re reading.

The tsumani wave of standardized testing doing its best to destroy public education in recent years is based not in pedagogy but in profit. No research proves its efficacy. None. This wave of standardized testing, dressed up in finery of “accountability” and “standards” (who could possibly be against those?) is founded in profit for testing and publishing companies. Requirement of standardized tests, their accompanying study materials, and prescribed curricula have turned public education into a multi-billion dollar industry. The results include not only an exponential loss of time to learn. The results include not only an exponential loss of time to learn, there is the loss of the humanity of all that creates a depth of learning, a reveling in ideas for their sheer brilliance and potential, an opening of the world.

As a professor in the field of teacher education, I see the effect that standardized testing has on teachers and children. Third grade teacher, Missy, said, “My students barely survived the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). I was prepared to grit my teeth and bear it. I was not prepared to be in tears within an hour of starting the test. One little third grader, who has been struggling to write this year, and who was doing better with gentle encouragement and clustering, broke into tears and was literally sitting in front of her computer crying within 40 minutes of starting the test. Crying Sobbing.”

I wish I could give teachers like her a solution. Instead, I tell them that standardized testing doesn’t equate with learning; standardized testing often doesn’t even authentically evaluate knowledge. What it does do is detract from exponential amounts of quality instructional time that students could be exploring, learning, experimenting, and growing. The most powerful dynamics in education are not found on Scantron forms. They are found in the hearts of teachers and students.

I thank the stars that the madness of the Third-Grade Reading Retention Bill did not pass the state legislature in the 2015 session. The average age around the world when children learn to read is 8 years old, when their brains have reached an age-appropriate level of development. There is no single path to reading. There are kids who learn to read at 3 years old and others who learn at 9. The beauty and mystery of the human brain is there is no single time that this occurs in all children.

Wyatt, reading by fireplace.

Wyatt, reading by fireplace.

I think of all of the little Wyatts in schools today, all of the boys and girls drowned in standardized tests and prescribed curriculum and content, rather than lifted to the world of thinking, of reading, of ideas, of exploration, of brilliance. All of the children telling their parents, “I’m stupid,” based on a test unfounded in pedagogy. I think of all of the teachers who enter the profession for the love of ideas, content and children, whose hands are now bound, their expertise questioned and stripped away, by standardized and prescribed curriculum created not by experts in education who understand pedagogy, but by business profiteers.

What I know in my heart is that had I left Wyatt in school, subjected him to a prescribed reading program, he never, ever would have known the magic of reading. Yes, he would have learned to read technically, to decode, and would have struggled the next steps of the trail, but he never would have stood at the top of the mountain to drink in the vast view from its peak. He would not have become a reader.

There are very real human costs to education for profit. Families choose to leave public education to give their children an educational experienced focused on ideas and learning, rather than testing and rote memorization. This creates inequity in education, as it is only families with financial means able to avoid standardized testing. This should not have to be a choice. The poorest among us endure the most standardized testing and prescribed curriculum.

It will take us at least a generation to recover from this testing and profit-making era of education—a generation of individual children and teachers left to pay the price.

Luke and Clyde

Luke and Clyde

What can we as parents do? Fill our homes with books, leave them scattered everywhere around the house, let our kids read what they want (even if the main vocabulary word is “poop”), go to libraries, talk about the story of books (not the sounds of syllables), and read our own books in front of them and talk about what we love about the book. Keep the power and the magic of reading alive.

Reading and learning are meant to be meaningful ways to transcend time and space, to grow and explore, to travel anywhere anytime, to be reminded that, no matter our circumstances, we are human and walk a shared path. Reading opens the world of ideas, emotions, events and experiences. To reduce reading to a prescribed curriculum, rote memorization, or an experience in shame when one is forced to read aloud or made to feel less-than another, is a travesty and betrays all that reading is meant to create and encompass. How marvelous that we learn to read best by reading what we want! Dav Pilkey, author of Captain Underpants wrote, “If you read, you can explore and experience all kinds of new and exciting things.”

That is what reading and school should be all about.

* * *


Krashen, S. (2004). The Power of Reading: Insights from Research, Libraries Unlimited.

For more information and research on pleasure reading see: http://www.sdkrashen.com/

Freeman, D. & Freeman, Y. (2011). Between Worlds: Access to Second Language

            Acquisition, Heinemann, NY, NY.

Wink, J. & Wink, D. (2004). Teaching Passionately: What’s Love To Do With It?,

            Pearson, NY, NY.

Information on standardized testing: Susan Ohanian: www.susanohanian.org





Team Shanghai and the Apple Pie Adventure

Infinite apple peels.

Infinite apple peels.

Luke’s friend, an exchange student from China, invited him to come to Shanghai this summer. As we often appreciate more the things we earn, Luke (and our family) made homemade apple pies for Easter to sell to raise funds to go. 

Wyatt, London

Wyatt, London

The Apple Pie Idea emerged a few years ago, when our oldest son, Wyatt, was invited to be a People-to-People Student Ambassador in the UK. This invitation happened during Wyatt’s freshman year, a time when he was really struggling. Our family sat in the invitational meeting, hearing about all of the wonders of this trip to Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland. Wyatt has always been entranced with this area of the world and read books about all by the wheelbarrow. Then, the numbers of what the trip would cost came up on the screen. There was simply no way. I looked at Wyatt, flashed on his struggles during that time, and deep inside me I knew that in ways I didn’t understand, we had to make this happen. Now, how?  What did our family have to offer? I make a very fine apple pie. When might people want one? The next holiday was Easter. Easter it was. Over the course of the next months, we experienced a transformation in Wyatt that left us speechless. 

Then came Luke’s invitation to go to Shanghai. It had been three years and we’d almost recovered from the last round of baking. Our hope is that in making this an experience that Luke works for, those greater life lessons will be an integral aspect of this experience. In addition to all he’ll learn through international travel and experiencing other cultures, we hope that through the making and selling of these apple pies, he will learn that life is about relationships, giving, working to create a life, and being gracious and grateful. He will give a presentation of photos and what he learned to gain experience in speaking in front of people. For all those who bought pies, we tell Luke that one day it will be his turn to give. That this is life. 

Luke wrote a letter to announce our upcoming sale of pies and Team Shanghai prepared. 

Luke - peeling and slicing.

Luke – peeling and slicing.

Wynn and Noé—the crust makers.

Wynn and Noé—the crust makers

Wynn and Noé—the crust makers

Wynn and Noé - sifting flour.

Wynn and Noé – sifting flour.

The apple peels, sliced apples, baskets and bags of all slowly took over our kitchen. I mixed, rolled the crust, and put the pies together.

How many more pies??

Late one day—How many more pies??

I never measure anything when I make apple pies. For all to help, I had to figure out more-or-less the measurements. I scribbled on a piece of paper and set in the middle of the table. 



We discovered good music was essential. We played stations of The Four Seasons, Motown, 80’s Rock, current hits, and everybody’s favorite, which Luke described as “weirdly perfect,” Disney soundtracks. Wynn and her best friend, Erin, sang all.

Erin and Wynn led the singing.

Erin and Wynn led the singing.

Two and a half days, 400 apples, 45 batches of dough…and a partridge in a pear tree later, we emerged with 70 pies. 

Luke heading pies into town.

Luke heading pies into town.

One of the tables of pies. ©Elizabeth Hinds

One of the tables of pies. ©Elizabeth Hinds

We returned home to survey a home still covered in apple peelings, butter, sugar, and flour on every surface. The boys dove into a chess game, Wynn went to her room humming a tune, Noé and I poured a glass of wine and collapsed on the couch. Whatever unfolds remains to be seen. Our hopes that this will be an experience in gratitude and learning Luke remains. Whatever happens, our family came together to peel, bake, sing, dance, work together to create a dream, talk, and laugh together for three days.

For this moment in time, that means everything. 

 * * *
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Three Things Learned About International Travel

Raven necklace

Raven—Creativity and Intelligence



This week I was to be in Toronto for the International TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) Conference, where I was Chair of the Bilingual Education Interest Section. We celebrated our fabulous 40th Anniversary last year in Portland, with details and photos here.

As I arrived to board my plane, I learned three things about international travel:

1) Always check, check, and check again the expiration date on your passport well before any international flight, and most definitely before arriving at the ticket counter at 6:00 am to board your plane. As I checked in yesterday morning, I discovered that my passport expired since I last used to Puebla, Mexico. After the shock, I turned to pleading, considering offering my first-born (too expensive, college), and shameless begging. I learned that our airlines are fined $50,000 if they let someone through without a valid passport. I really don’t care, but apparently the airlines do. 

2) Non-refundable tickets are truly non-refundable, despite multiple conversations with several people in the US and India.

3) One-day passport service centers are located in Denver and El Paso (six hours away), require an appointment, and it actually takes 2 days to receive your new passport. Note to self… 

David and Yvonne Freeman

David and Yvonne Freeman

After a lifetime of international travel, one would think I would have already learned these things, and yet… Back to Santa Fe for me. The next 36 hours filled with emails and phone calls rapidly flying back and forth between colleagues, thankfully dear friends, in Toronto. In a display of professionalism and heart, the past Chair, Sandra Mercuri, and upcoming Chair, Sandra Musanti, created the structure for our meeting, gathered our tribe together, and kept the heartbeat of our organization beating soundly. In the midst of all, I learned that people had been denied travel if their passport was set to expire in the next six months. Check your passports!

At the conference, one of my presentations focused on research done for my chapter in Research on Preparing Inservice Teachers to Work Effectively with Emergent Bilinguals (Advances in Research on Teaching, Volume 24) edited by David and Yvonne Freeman, (Emerald Press). The focus of this text: 

With the rapidly increasing number of English learners in schools, there is a critical need for teacher educators to prepare inservice teachers to support these emergent bilinguals with effective practices. Despite this need, there is a lack of research on how best to provide professional development for these teachers. In this book, teacher educators from institutions across the U.S. report their research on educating inservice teachers who teach emergent bilinguals in ESL, bilingual, and mainstream classes.

Freedom Within Structure

Freedom Within Structure

The chapter I contributed is titled, “Freedom Within Structure: Practices for Teacher Sustainability, Efficacy, and Emergent Bilingual Student Success.”

When the flurry of emails and phone calls to Toronto ebbed, the March Madness of birthdays in our family continued. The sun rose one morning and it was first Wyatt’s birthday and then mine. For the past several years, Mom and I have celebrated Wyatt’s, hers, and my birthdays at various cities around the US, as this is historically the week of TESOL. Mom and I packed balloons and crepe paper, along with our clothes and flash drives for presentations. Last year, I arrived back to our hotel to find crepe paper streaming from the door of our room. 

This year, Noé surprised me with the necklace above, originally a pin we bought in the San Juan Islands last year, a pin he bought, as the Raven symbolizes “creativity and intelligence.” (My own not noticeably demonstrated this year regarding my passport, yet the pin inspires me none-the-less.) A pin I never wore, since it left holes in whatever blouse I wore. Unbeknownst to me, Noé worked with a jewelry-making friend, removed the back, bought a chain, and drilled a hole through the pin to create a pendant. We went to Wynn’s volleyball tournament and watched her block, spike, dig, and serve. She was on fire! A blessing to share the day with her.

Life unfolds.

Birthday volleyball tournament—Noé, me, Wynn

Birthday volleyball tournament—Noé, me, Wynn

* * *
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Work that is Real

Work That is Real

Work That is Real, Sculpture created and gifted by Rachel Bighley

 The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
                                                                                                    – Eleanor Roosevelt

The tide of the ebb and flow of teaching, of writing, of parenting—of life, has swept through these past weeks catching all in its wake. I’ve been teaching three classes of Orientation to the Teaching Profession, filled with students just entering the profession. Teaching this class never ceases to humble and inspire.

Most students in this class have had other professions and have decided to teach, despite reading today’s headlines so determined to blame teachers for what is society’s responsibility to care for its children, its poor. So much easier to blame teachers, rather than address the real issue, poverty. Yet, still people come to teach. 

One of these classes met once a week on Wednesday evenings, almost every person there already had been up since the wee hours of the morning, worked all day, and arrived, exhausted and hungry, to our evening class. The other two classes are online, our connection virtual. Together, we wrestle with ideas, with questions, with all we would bring into being and all we would change. The people in these classes never cease to amaze me with their honesty, curiosity, passion, and above all, dedication to creating beauty in this world. Why would one enter the field of Education now if not to bring beauty to this world?

In an effort to create human relationships, I’ve made video after video for these online classes. Somehow, this makes me feel we are all together. Wild, yet true. We talk together, read together, make meaning about life together. Here, I read from “We Teach Who we Are,” words of wisdom from Parker Palmer. In my experience, the thoughts conveyed here apply not just to teaching, but to life.

The past five weeks have flown by and again and again I return again and again to the words of Marge Piercy, in her poem:

“To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.”

May we be of use, whatever our path, with work that is real. 

Sunset—Santa Fe, NM

Sunset—Santa Fe, NM

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