Sunday, February 22, 2015

Haiti Backpacks

Teaching 6th graders is one of the highlights of my life right now. I love them! I love American 6th graders. I love Haitian 6th graders. Hopefully next year I can proudly claim- "I love my OWN 6th grader!!!"…. (How is it possible that Elli is almost a 6th grader???)

But, I will fully admit that sometimes I just want to shake them!

I wanna shake up the USA 6th graders. Show them that they can change the world… that teenagers across the globe can and are changing the world and they can be part of the party. I point out teenagers on Channel 1 that are changing the world. I make them read and write about teenagers that are making the world better. I get kind of bossy and make them tell me WHY I am pointing out a particular person- "Because they are a teenager Mrs. Baker and teenagers can change the world." Call it brainwashing- or call it reality.

I want my 6th graders to find the kind of friends that I found in middle school- friends that sang Christmas carols at the nursing home and served at the soup kitchen. We served others but had an awesome time becoming teenagers and celebrating life together. I had the kind of friends that you dream about for your kids. I have a high standard for my own 4 kids friends because I was part of such an incredible group of people that are truly brag worthy.

I love that my 6th graders are JUST beginning to explore careers-- so many options for either gender-- and so many ways here in America to dream big and grab the degree/certification to make it happen. So. Many. Ways. Free public education with bussing and food and class size amendments. (I know not every classroom in America is perfect--- but when you travel around the world and see the reality for millions of school children without free education/bussing/food/teachers etc…. you know you don't have much to complain about.)

But yet I have seen. I have witnessed. And once you know- you know. I know what it's like to have the best teachers, the best friends, the best technology, the best packed school lunch ever… (thank you Mom and Dad for the capri suns, cool ranch Doritos, Pizza Rolls and Totino pizza hookup and for my high school and middle school to have microwaves. My lunch ROCKED!!!)

But now I am parenting children who didn't have the proper early childhood toys, communication, and development. I have seen what living in an orphanage with no toys does to fine and gross motor skills. I have lived through the hell of fixing bodies filled with parasites. (Yes- that is a proper description)….

I have seen with my own 2 eyes what it looks like to walk to school through the mountain cliffs for 2 hours… and then walk home for 2 hours… and then walk to the water source for your family, pets, and crops. And you may or may not have had a lunch or parasite filled water to drink. But you walk anyway. You walk to school for a chance to cram in a desk-in a building with no electricity- to orally practice your education in an overcrowded classroom.
Here they are- walking down the mountain to school... Ignore my dirty hand!) 
I want to shake my 6th grade Haitian friends and say:

- WOW! You did it! You could have SO easily dropped out like so many others. Your parents need you to farm, to fetch water, to take care of the burning fire for meal prep. I can't imagine how hard it was to walk that path every day. To have the cherished school uniform shirt passed down and mended over and over…and it really doesn't fit anymore. You learned so much by daylight hours with minimal resources. You are stronger and braver than me. But-- keep going! Find a way! I know it seems completely impossible to carry on-- and in reality- I am sure it is. But will you promise me you will try? You will try to have a dream-- and try to find a way to live out that dream? Will you make good choices about boys/girls/friends? I beg you to have high standards and to not compromise. Will you ask God what your purpose and destiny is? Will you challenge yourself to take the take the next step to higher education?

Here's the deal- 6th grade is the end for most of my Haitian 6th grade friends. To continue on, they must go into the city (4 hour drive away-- but most will walk)and live without their family to continue on with secondary education. These are poor peasant farming families. But- if that spark (see my last post on Haiti) is still there--- it might be possible!

I need your help. I have been asked to help coordinate 17 backpacks. There are 8 boys and 9 girls in the 6th grade class that I taught art at in Haiti. Preperations are being made for their graduation this spring. This is it! This is the time to continue to inspire them and for them to see that it will be worth it to find a way! I dream along side of CPI Haiti that one day a secondary education chance will be housed with the elementary--- but that day is not here yet. CPI Haiti would like to gift each one a backpack full of supplies to continue the journey. That 6th grade graduation doesn't have to be the end--- but just the beginning.

I asked a few of my friends and family to do this project for me this past fall. And it was AWESOME! We passed out backpacks to the top 3 students in each grade level. Being part of this mini-ceremony in each class was one of my favorite parts of the trip. So- I am asking you again. And I need a few more friends/family to help me. I need 17 school supply filled backpacks by the middle of March. Who wants to help?

Please use the link below to commit to a backpack- or 2- or 17! :)

Sign Up Here!

Thanks for helping me spread sunshine! This is FUN!

P.S. Just to warn you now- I am dreaming about how to make yellow gingham uniform shirts and help fund the adult literacy program next…. more blog dream post coming up after the move!


Book Club Recap: Unbroken

First let me recap (since I deleted my original blog…. sniff sniff…) why I even do book club:

1. I love books and after every book I read I go, "Man, I wish I could talk to someone about this book right now!"

2. I don't take being a literate female for granted. Remember this picture from Haiti?
It was one of the few times I cried in Haiti--- illiterate adults learning vowels after the school was dismissed. This scene has been heavy on my heart since I returned and I am asking God to show me how I can financially contribute to the continuation of this program. One day, I would love to host a Jenntage book club with them!

3. I love to throw parties! Throwing birthday parties for my daughters was one of the highlights of creativity for me while they were growing up. It allowed me to be "me" and to not loose my creativity when motherhood felt so overwhelming while still being a full time teacher. However… once we became a "tribe"…and I had 3 year old triplets with an older sister under my wing-- party planning began to feel overwhelming. I "retired" from Baker Birthday Parties after Caden and Lillian each had an official "Jenn Baker themed birthday party"… which is a whole other post! (To this day- birthdays are a highlight of Lillian's life!!!! It makes me super sad to think of all of the children and orphans around the world who never get celebrated around the world…. which also leads me to another blog post and my vision of "Jenntage Jubilees" on my life bucket list… anywhoo--- back to book club recap!

4. I love to make desserts and serve warm drinks!

5. Being the children's pastor at my church, I don't go to "big church" and have much fellowship time with my church family. I know that I need the encouragement, fellowship, accountability, and the desire to grow as a Christian--- so I create those moments for myself by hosting book clubs and crafts nights. Selfish- maybe… needed? YES!

6. Besides being open to the ladies of my church, I love hosting women from Lakeland and surrounding area. Polk county may get a bad rap on the news- but I think some of the most genuine- caring- giving ladies live in my community. I want to share life with them-learn from them- and be inspired by them! I often say/think- "Lakeland is Love" because I see and feel the love to often myself. Those are my reasons! Unbroken Book Club was probably one of the best ones yet. Yes, I always say that… but each time we gather and share- it is just magical. I have been part of some pretty awesome book club nights and they have literally changed my life, my heart, and my outlook. Unbroken was no different! I had prepared some "googled" discussion questions (always a great place to start-- don't reinvent the wheel!) but I hardly used them because the conversation and discussion was so natural. Or maybe the buttermilk pie kept us begging for more discussion to allow time for another piece????

And 2 months later- I am wrapping up this unfinished blog post for a book club update!

- February book club was canceled because of the craziness involved with the selling and buying of our house. Everything was supposed to happen last week- but it looks like Tuesday is the big day for our farmhouse dream that I have been mentally planning in my head for years but never thought it would happen. You just never know where those interest boards will take you… :)

- So--- March 12- 7:30 PM at my NEW house... (Text me for the address) is our next Jenntage Book Club. We will be discussing Orphan Train. Please bring antibiotic cream or EMLA (numbing cream) donations for Sole Hope. I am collecting different needed items each month during book club to help at their Ugandan Jigger Clinic. I would LOVE to host you-- come come come! I can be bribed to make more buttermilk pie!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Haiti Projects: #1- Teach Art


 1. Teach Art- You got it! You must know however, I am really not an art teacher. I only took art in 6th grade for a few weeks. The art teacher at my school was creepy--- so I stayed away. He was the same teacher for middle school and high school- so I never explored that creative classroom. Looking back- I am kinda bummed. I really wish I would have taken pottery or something. But I knew I couldn't draw (not even stick figures)- so I thought art was just out. for life. 

 2. I remember loving any creative project K-12th grade. The highlight of my kindergarten year was to learn to put my crayons in rainbow order. Do it every time… anything and everything- even my clothes in my closet are rainbow order! I started out in college as an elementary education major- but knew that I would devote too much of my energy into bulletin boards instead of lesson plans- so I switched to secondary social studies education. 

 18 year old decisions looked like this: Who was my favorite teacher in high school? Mr. Rodgers. Favorite childhood toy? American Girl Dolls. Bam- I think I will become a history teacher. (Best teacher ever shout out goes to my beloved Mrs. Collins… that's why I started out as an education major!)

 After rainbow ordered 1st grade crayons, creative high school book reports and Homecoming/Snowfest floats…. the next thing I discovered was scrapbooking, which led to sewing, which led to crochet…. If you give a girl a box of crayons, then she will need poster board, and then and then and then…. cue in the "If you give a mouse a cookie" book lines- just substitute art supplies for cookies. Or not. I really like cookies too! Rabbit trail… 

 3. So when our Haiti trip got rescheduled for November and now that the girls that I wanted to teach crochet to where in school at the time- I got volun-told for art. I got pretty excited because I currently teach a bit of art at the end of the day and absolutely LOVE it! There is more to art than just drawing!!!! Art is color, and techniques, and visible emotions, and history as a cherry on top! Glue guns, and fabric, and rainbow sharpies and pinterest- whoohoo! My students love coming to art class because they get to socialize, be creative, and are not behind an electronic screen! (I eavesdrop on them and this is what they really said!) You can't mess up in art. I personally don't want my students not to pursue it "for real" in 7th-12th grade so I am trying really hard not to be too creepy :) 

 4. I was told that the students in the school we were traveling to do not have art class or do art. I didn't really want to believe it. In my current stage of life (mostly simply raising triplets)… art is therapy for me. But sure enough- here is what the classrooms looked like on Sunday: 

 It kinda felt like operation color... Or extreme classroom makeover! 

 I taught 5th grade art on Monday and the same projects on Tuesday to the 6th graders. I tweaked a valentine printable from here

I started by passing around a mirror. This helped to break the ice and get the kids giggling…they were super quiet at first. 

 I tried to convince them to color their skin color in… but that got lost in translation! After they created their self-portrait, they glued rainbow tissue squares all around. 

 The next project I typically do at Easter time with my kids from church. I loved how this one turned out- so colorful and instant smile makers! A little bit of watercolor and paint tape created instant magic.

 I kinda have this personal goal of making sunshine cookies with kids all around the world. I love spreading sunshine- especially edible ones in the form of cookies.... But then again, I have already established that I love cookies! I have done them at church, kids summer book club, my class, my own tribe, and now my Haitian kiddos. The 5th graders were a MESS… my candy corn had melted and turning the white frosting into yellow frosting was intense!!!! For 6th grade, I took advantage of the only classroom resource: the chalkboard. 6th graders did a great job! Frosting was totally a first for both groups- they licked every drop off of their fingers and wanted to know what it was called! Some of the sweet 6th grade girls saved 1/2 of their sun to take home to share. 

 After the sunshine cookies, they made journals. I did most of my "teaching" by show and sign-language. But I did grab the translator for the intro for the next 2 projects. They created an art or writing journal. I told them… no begged them… to write out their dreams. Draw their dreams. Write poetry. Leave their legacy. I told them their story matters and that it was ok to dream. I am not sure if they got it. Or that it was translated correctly. I am not sure if they believed me. Can a message from a white lady with no clue of their hardships and life really make a difference? I tried to show my genuine compassion through my smile and eyes and patience. I sure hope it worked. I hope those girls heard just a morsel of what I was saying. I hope the boys tucked it away too.  On our last night there, I (and some Swedish fish bribed friends), wrote a note in their journals to remind them of my pep talk. And that I meant it. 

 I read the book- "The Dot" to encourage them to just start. Leave a mark. To have confidence and that their name was important. (And yours is too by the way!) 

 We ended the day doodling away and coloring in some popsicle stars. (I saw them here) After school, I hung them up all around the banner that we hung in every room as a "banner verse" :) At night (yay for a generator at night!) and the last few days we were there, I laminated everything that I could so that it would last as long as possible and hung it up to create classrooms full of color. There is no electricity- just open windows for sunlight to come through. Yay sunlight! I put a group of young men to work tearing up fabric to create banners- as seen here

 The rest of the team took a grade level or 2 and created awesomeness as well. I love love loved being part of this team and doing art with kids. Creating a cute classroom is one of my favorite things to do for my students--- so why not take that show on the road? (Or airplane!) Thank you CPI Haiti for allowing me to come along and do my thing! Spreading Sunshine is my fav! Here was our creative classroom team: love these girls!