Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Boy, would I do things differently.

In a recent discussion, my husband said, "When you stop being willing to change, you stop being relevant." I think that statement is true in many instances, and it certainly applies to teaching.

One important piece of learning I got from my experiences before and during my trip to Poland is that there are some things I need to adjust about how I teach the Holocaust.  There are texts I might eliminate; there are texts I may add.  There are films that are not considered "good practice" for viewing; there are films that get good reviews for authenticity.  I was - and still am - ever so thankful to have been in the company of teachers and Shoah Foundation staff who discussed with me and helped me think through my lessons and practices as they relate to teaching the Holocaust.

As I have considered that particular aspect of my teaching, I have been thinking about my approach to other topics and lessons that I teach.  What could  - or should - I be doing differently?  Better?  Are there things I could say and do that would help the teaching-learning process in my classroom?

Of course, I reuse lessons from year-to-year, but more often, my lesson and unit planning seems to be in a constant state of change. I want them to get better.

For instance, I have taught The Hobbit for five years.  This year, I tried a completely new approach to the book.  Luckily for me, a teacher had created a unit plan and had made it available for purchase on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I had to tweak it some for my junior high students, but it was likely the best approach I have used for teaching that novel.   I predict that unit plan will stay in the mix for a while! 

Oh how I wish I could go back to that group of seventh graders, who are now high school juniors, and reteach The Hobbit.  Boy, would I do things differently.  

I would certainly read TO them more.  That's something that I've realized I enjoy, and I think students enjoy it, too.  Over the last couple of years, I make an effort to at least read the first chapter to the students.  It helps them hear the cadence of the book, and it gives me an opportunity to use my tone of voice to emphasize certain words, phrases, and passages.  Reading to them absolutely helps get them started on the right foot. If I could redo that first year, I would also have them discuss more!  The unit plan for this year called for quite a lot of discussion as it was in a "literature circles" format.  It was exciting for me to overhear conversations about a classic novel coming from the mouths of twelve-and-thirteen-year-olds!  What fun!

Beyond just reteaching The Hobbit,  I wish I could go back to my first ever group of seventh graders; they are now college sophomores.  Boy, would I do things differently.

I had spent three years teaching high school seniors when I requested a move to seventh-grade. I never anticipated the huge transition it would be!  It had been a LONG TIME since I was twelve, and twelve is NOT the same as when I was a kid.  Unfortunately, I did not approach that group of students like they were twelve-year-olds.  Things didn't improve when they had that magical thirteenth birthday, either. Why not?  I was used to teaching eighteen-year-olds.  I anticipated and prepared for the change in curriculum, but I did not prepare myself to make necessary changes in my strategies. I struggled.  They struggled.  And I learned, every day, more about the mind of a seventh grader.

Wow!  I wish I had known then what I know now, and I wish I knew more now than I do! I have learned that junior high kids do well with a daily agenda that incorporates at least a little time for discussion or a game.  I have learned that they still like rewards.  (I give out A LOT of stickers!) They do better with projects when we do small steps and have short-term deadlines.  They are very busy and sometimes forgetful and not always very organized.  Why?  They're in junior high.  They're KIDS. I wish I had more fully realized that from the start.

Of course, reflecting on all I have learned about teaching junior high makes me think back to my very first full-time teaching job with high school seniors.  I wish I could go back to that awesome group of students from the FPHS Class of 2006.  Boy, would I do things differently.

That year, I was exhausted. My first child was only six weeks old the day I started that job. I was so overwhelmed with motherhood, a new career, and sponsoring extracurricular activities, that I am honestly just thankful we all survived.  I guess many teachers have similar thoughts about that challenging first year.  I do, however, wish I could go back and re-experience that year with those particular students. I think about what a nut-job they probably thought I was, and I wish I had the chance to do it over again, with a little more sanity and experience under my belt.  Many of them saw me sob my way through long senior play rehearsals, scramble and stress out until the class night script was finalized, and sigh in relief as they walked across the stage at graduation. Today, many of those students are married and starting their own families, and to this day, students in that class are among my all-time favorites. I absolutely wish I could have a chance to re-do that year. 

Unfortunately, do-overs aren't commonplace in teaching.  Students move on and another group takes their place. While I cannot have a second chance with the class of 2006, or 2013, or even those juniors - the class of 2016, I CAN do my best to learn from those years. . .from those students. . .and from those mistakes.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received came along during grad school:

If you try to teach students in the manner you were most recently taught, you will never reach them.

I try to regularly remind myself that I work with children - teenagers - but really, children.  They are required to attend school.  They are required to take English.  They are not choosing to pay for a graduate level lecture class in a subject that they like.  It is not their responsibility to interpret pages of lecture notes.  They're kids.  And, every day, it is my job to help them learn.  I may never get it all just right, but I sure will try!

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Case for Memorizing

As I look out the window onto my snow-covered yard, here on this third consecutive weather day, I am really trying to avoid thinking about the things we have missed at school. My seventh and eighth grade advanced classes have been working on poetry. We were actually supposed to wrap that up LAST week, but this crazy Alabama weather has resulted in a multitude of school delays, early dismissals, and school closings.

The "schedule-OCD" part of me is trying really hard not to think about what we were supposed to have done this week - and how that will now be pushed into next week. I'm trying not to think about how I will have to reschedule the mandatory standardized test practice and review days. I'm trying not to think about the test that was originally scheduled for LAST week that will now - hopefully - be sometime next week. Instead, I'm trying to think about the positive things that come from unexpected days off and interrupted schedules: much needed rest, time with family, and fun with neighbors. This "bonus" time also gives me an opportunity to reflect.

One of the most unexpected - and important - components of my time in Poland was the time we used to reflect.  We actually built-in time to think about, write about, and discuss how activities, events, and experiences made us feel.  We reflected on how such things impacted others and how we could use those things to influence our students.  So often in life, we are bound to the calendar - appointments, lessons, classes, practices, meetings - that we often run out of time to THINK about the things that we are doing. Why are we doing them?  Are they important?  Are we meeting our goals?  Are we happy?
The road was a ribbon of moonlight
over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
riding --riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.

So, today, I've been reflecting on memorization.  As part of their poetry units, I have required my students to memorize poetry.  My seventh graders memorize the first stanza of Alfred Noyes’s narrative poem “The Highwayman.”  They also memorize Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”  This year, my eighth graders have had an option to choose their poem; they either memorize “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost or “O Captain, My Captain” by Walt Whitman. They were supposed to be finished with their recitals. The weather delayed that plan. Lucky them!  They've had a LOT of extra time to memorize. Realistically, that’s not what they've been doing - and that's totally fine! But, they've had the time.  

Maybe, just maybe, though, one or two of them have looked out at the glistening snow and thought, “Whose woods these are, I think I know. . .” Perhaps they've had that extra moment to stop and watch woods fill up with snow. Maybe they've used a little morsel of this extra time to hear the “sweep of easy wind and downy flake.”

That's what I hope.  I hope that they’ll think on those simple words - masterfully combined by one of the masters - and reflect on the beauty of this blanket of Alabama snow.  Maybe they'll even recognize that this snowfall has delayed their obligations and that this week they have had fewer "promises to keep" and fewer "miles to go before (they) sleep." I hope that - just maybe - someone has thought about it.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near

One of the joys - in my mind, anyway - of knowing something “by heart” is that it helps us connect to the world around us.  It helps us recognize themes in our world.  Is memorizing poetry a Common Core standard?  No.  Will it be on their end-of-the-year assessment?  No.  Is it important?  I think so!

As the daughter of a quintessential English teacher, recited verse was just a part of life.  My mother LOVED literature. She loved poetry, stories, novels, and scripture. I wish I had a record of all the passages she could quote from memory.  I’m not sure many days of my life went by when she didn't quote from something.  She knew the prologue to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English.  (SERIOUSLY.  That was my childhood.) She quoted lines from poetry and plays.  She regularly popped out a scripture applicable to my most recent wrongdoing.  There was a quote to go along with almost any circumstance of almost any day in our little world.

As a child and teenager, I thought she was extreme.  I thought she was possibly the nerdiest of the nerdy.  I VOWED I would never subject my children to life as a “teacher’s kid” - especially not an English teacher’s kid.  But, now, years later, here I am.  Teaching English.  Correcting grammar.  Spouting off lines of literature.  Wishing I knew more.

Of course, there is a debate about the worthiness of memorization.  Rote memorization.  Boring.  Non-skill-based.  However, I believe there is great value in memorization.
  • It requires commitment.
  • It requires focus.
  • It forces us to LEARN the text.  We KNOW what it says.  That helps us develop text-based arguments.
  • It makes nuances of language come alive.  We notice word choice, figurative language, and sound devices.
  • It helps us make connections to and recognize themes in the world.
  • It builds self-esteem.  My students really seem proud of themselves when they finish reciting poetry.  They had a challenge, and they met it!
  • It makes one seem educated. Put all the things on the list together, and I suppose this is somehow the culmination.  I’ve never heard someone quote literature or scripture and thought, “Wow, they seem dumb.”  On the contrary, I think, “Wow, that’s impressive!”

Of course, memorizing often brings moans and groans.  I certainly remember moaning through “My love is like a red, red rose. . .” as a high school freshman. I remember groaning through “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. . .” as a sophomore.  The list could go on. Hindsight, as the cliche goes, is 20/20.  I wish I had learned more.  I wish I could readily quote from hundreds of texts.  

Thankfully, I typically know enough of a reference to “Google it” when I need to. There are so many passages that are worthy of committing to memory.  I think I’ll even begin working on some with my own kids!  We’ll probably start with “If-” by Rudyard Kipling and portions of “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout” by Shel Silverstein.  They seem appropriate.  Maybe that’ll be how we use a little time as the snow melts away.

In this day and age where students struggle with focus, commitment to what a text actually says, and understanding “real” language, I believe memorization finds a useful home.  

Here are some links to articles that explore the importance of memorization. What do you “know by heart”?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Photos and Videos from Poland Trip

Well, I've been captioning and organizing all day, so here are the links to my albums.  Enjoy!

I will be continuing regular posts on my blog regarding the trip.

For those of you who are not regular blog-readers, at the bottom of every individual blog, you can click "home" and it should take you to a screen where you will see the archive of all my blog posts.

Let's try some pictures! Each hyperlink should take you to an album for each day.  There are still photographs and a few videos.

Pre-travel Fun

Travel to Warsaw

Day 1 - Warsaw

Day 2 - Warsaw/travel to Krakow

Day 3 - Krakow/Auschwitz I

Day 4 - Oswiecim/Auschwitz 70 Commemoration

Travel Home

This has been the experience of a lifetime.  I am so thankful to have had this opportunity.  My pictures certainly do not do justice to all that I got to see and experience, so I have included links with additional info in many captions.  Please look around!  (You should be able to tap "slideshow" in the upper left corner of each album to see the photos in slideshow format without clicking - but that may be different when there are videos playing...I'm still learning!)

Also, if there are any specific questions or topics you would like for me to address, please follow this link.  I'll try to answer your questions via email or in an upcoming blog.   Click HERE to complete a form.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reflections and thank you

I'm on the ground in Washington, D.C.  Yes, I'm completely exhausted.... We packed a lot of learning into four days.  I think I slept one hour overnight on Tuesday, but I sleep almost the entire time on the flight from Frankfurt to here.  

However, I do want to take this opportunity to thank some people as I reflect on this monumental experience.

First, thank you to my coworkers, administrators, and school system for allowing me to have this chance.  It has definitely changed me, and I know it will impact my teaching.

Next, thank you to all the amazing staff from the USC Shoah Foundation and Discovery Ed.  What professionals you all are!  You are definitely leading the way for educators to have easily accessible and relevant information that will engage students in this digital age.  It was a pleasure to work with all of you!   USC Shoah Foindation staff... Kori, Kay, Jenna, Claudia, Dave, Lesly, Francesca, Anna, Andrea, Brandon, Michelle, Liz and and Disvovery Ed folks...Lori, Jodi, Greg, Robin, Tahia (and I'm sure my exhaustion is causing me to forget some!!) Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your amazing program.  (And Disvovery staff on my DC flight.... I'm so sad that I didn't get to say goodbye!  Tell Lacey I want to keep in touch!)

Thank you to all my new friends.... The teachers, staff, leadership, and junior interns who were involved in Auschwitz: The Past is Present.   I am overwhelmed by your professionalism and passion for what you do.  Teachers, making connections with you all and creating this network has been invaluable.  I certainly hope we can keep in touch! 

Very importantly, thank you to my family.  Matt, you have supported me 100% throughout this adventure, and I am grateful.  You've persevered through your dad's surgery, a bout of the stomach bug for Blake, and probably a long list of other stuff you haven't shared with me yet.  I love you!  Kids, I sure have missed your faces, and your video this morning was the best yet!

Friends, thank you for all your words of encouragement.  Thank you especially to the Groghans and Sissy who have been unbelievably willing to help with the kiddos in my absence.  I have loved reading everyone's comments on my blog.  

Students, thank you for your encouragement and excitement.  I cannot wait to share this  experience with you in person!

Thank you to all of you who helped me complete the application and video process.  Thank you so much to the Breeds and Rigdons for your help with my gifts. Thank you to everyone who made that successful!  

Thank you to John Guice, my librarian, who first wanted to apply for this trip but could not due to not having a passport.  I am so grateful that you shared the information with me!

Thank you to all my friends and family who prayed for my safety.  Prayers work!

Thank you to all of my blog readers.  I hope to continue writing regularly.... But I don't want to bombard you.... So, after next week, I'll be making some decisions about how my blog will proceed.  

Again, this has been an amazing trip that I will never forget.  I have learned so much about the importance of authentic sites, the way we commemorate and memorialize places and people and events, and how to integrate those things  in my classroom though state-of-the-art technology. 

This has been a trip I will never forget, and I am so thankful to have been a part of such an important and amazing event!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday - Last Day in Poland

It's 10:15pm here, and I have to be up and ready to go at 4:00am.  I'm still having wifi issues, so my post will be short.

Today we visited the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oswiecim (oz-vee-chim).  That city was once divided almost equally between Jews and non-Jews (Poland is largely Catholic).  When the Nazis invaded and captured the city, the Jews were taken to the camp, and most never returned.  We visited the site of the Great Synagogue which was destroyed, along with 18 other of the twenty synagogues that once stood in the town.  From the time of the war until the fall of communism in 1989, the only remaining synagogue (now the museum) was used as a warehouse.

Among the challenging thoughts I experienced today, this one stood out.

In the south, where many of our communities center around churches, imagine that suddenly 95% of them were destroyed.  Really.  Think about it.  Count the churches.  Eliminate 95% of those buildings AND the congregants.

How would that feel?  How would that change your community?  How would that change the culture of your town?  What would the future look like for you if you had been part of one of those congregations that was obliterated?

Yes, there are large, difficult religious implications of such a situation, but today, I focused on the cultural impact.  I challenge  you to do the same.

We did attend the commemoration at Auschwitz-Birkenau this evening.  It took place just outside the death gate.  There were about 3000 people inside an enormous tent (bigger than I have ever seen!), and it was notably more theatrical than I had imagined it would be.  I think I need time to process the contrast of the common images of that specific location with the view I had tonight before I share much more.

I have an early start and will be traveling almost 24 hours tomorrow with a 3+ hour layover in Frankfurt and 2-ish hour layover in DC, so hopefully I can get a good wifi connection and post some pics and videos.  

So, for now, goodnight from Krakow!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday - Auschwitz I and Survivor Reception

I am not sure I can adequately express the flood of emotions that I have had today.   I really tried to prepare myself for this experience, but being in Auschwitz I was something I will never forget.  I was very thankful to be led on the tour by our group's own Adam Musial, a teacher and amazing historian from here in Krakow, and our group's own Steve Richardson, a teacher from Ripley, Derbyshire, England, who leads groups of students on trips to Auschwitz several times each year.  Their knowledge and insights were so meaningful, and I am grateful for their leadership and guidance.

It will likely take weeks for me to fully process my visit to Auschwitz I, (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum) and I feel like I will be even more confident of that after our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau tomorrow for the commemoration.  There is just so much to process.  So, for now,  I will share the most gripping moments for me and then list other significant events.

The shoes.
Many of you have seen the pictures from the display of victims' shoes.  Many of you may have read about it - particularly about the red shoes.  I will say that the display of children's shoes - particularly the little red Mary Jane's  - was the most emotional moment for me.  I cannot think of a time in her life that my own daughter, almost six, has been without a pair of red shoes.  I will likely post more extensively on this later, but it reminds me of my earlier post when I mentioned "phone home."  Little girls in red shoes are supposed to be able to click their heels together and wake up at home.  For this victim, that dream was not to come true.  So, atop this mound of children's shoes sat a pair of red shoes that likely belonged to a feisty little girl with a big heart and big dreams.  I remember her because of her shoes.

The hair.
The room of hair was likewise overwhelming.  There was hair of all color and texture and length.  I think of my own personal vanity about hair.  I recall the frustration when my daughter cut her little blonde ringlets  - like many little children do.  And then I think about the hundreds of thousands of people who were dehumanized with a haircut.  It was astounding.  There was just so much hair.

The crematorium.
I am not sure I can ever fully reclaim the feeling of walking into a gas chamber and crematorium.   I cannot describe the feeling with words, but it was some sort of mix of oppression and fear and anxiety and grief. First, I saw the scratches on the wall. . . and next I took a step through a doorway into a smoke-stained crematorium.   And then, unlike millions of others. . . I was able walk out.

Other moments of note from Auschwitz:

  • Seeing survivors walking through the camp with their families and being thankful that they are here to share their stories, and being amazed that they are so poised in such a desperate place.
  • Seeing the crews of media and cameras and preparations throughout the camp and thinking how glaringly different the coverage was 70 years ago.  (One newspaper article, I believe, was written immediately upon liberation.)
  • Tour of the penal barrack 
  • Tour of the Yad Vashem exhibit
  • Exhibit of drawings of children of the Holocaust
  • The Book of Names
  • The Gallows (Where Commandant Rudolf Hoess was hanged following the Nuremberg Trials)
  • Seeing Rainer Hoess (grandson of Rudolf Hoess who expresses deep remorse and regret for his grandfather's crimes) being interviewed inside the camp (This was a major moment for me as I had watched his story in the documentary Hitler's Children. Here is a recent article about him.)
  • The slushy pathways between buildings as the snow melted and my thankfulness for warm, waterproof boots.
  • The two rows of barbed wire with coils for electricity.  

Our evening began with a debriefing session.  We then made a very quick change of clothing and headed to the survivor reception.  It was certainly a gala event!   I had an opportunity to meet with a survivor named Gisselle.  She survived at Auschwitz, moved to New York in the years following the war, and moved to Israel about 20 years ago.  She now works for the organization Yad Vashem counseling Holocaust survivors.
Tonight's program included these people:
David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery Communications; founder of Auschwitz: The Past is Present
Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress
Steven Spielberg, director, producer, founder of the USC Shoah Foundation, founder of Auschwitz: The Past is Present.

Music was provided by descendants and relatives of Holocaust victims and survivors.  The most notable to me was Alex-Biniaz-Harris, grandson of Holocaust survivor Celina Biniaz, one of the Schindler Jews.

After a roller-coaster day of emotions, I ended the evening with dinner in the hotel and a walking tour of the city center in Krakow.  It is still decorated for Christmas, and the snow and lights are enchanting.  I was with two veteran teachers who have led student groups on travel tours throughout Europe, so I was in excellent hands! Laurie Schaefer, a teacher from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has traveled to Poland many times, so you will hear her voice in the videos that follow.

Tour of Auschwitz Jewish Center & Cemetery
70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

(I believe the ceremony will be streaming live.  It will be late afternoon/evening here, so it will air in the morning in the USA.)

For those of you who are watching the weather in the northeast, my flight is scheduled from Frankfort to Washington-Dulles early afternoon on Wednesday.  Hopefully the DC area will not be hard hit by the storm. Many from my group are traveling into Newark, so we are keeping an eye on the weather and hoping that it doesn't get as bad as predicted.

The wi-fi is painfully slow tonight, so I am unable to upload any photos.  (I've been trying for an hour.)  I have a three-hour layover in Frankfurt on Wednesday, so maybe the wi-fi will be faster there and I can post an entire album and videos.  Please do explore the galleries on the museum sites I've listed.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Amazing Sunday

Today has been an exciting day personally and professionally.

This morning, we left the hotel with our bags packed for our transfer to Krakow.  When we arrived back at Polin Museum, we had a debriefing session and began our work for the day.  Four of us had been asked to serve on a panel for a presentation to the other educators and the mission group from The Shoah Foundation (their donors).  As the main part of the group continued working on their pitches for “shark tank” and toured the beautiful exterior of the museum and discussed the significance of the landscape and sculptures around the building.

Matt from Kentucky, Karen from Arkansas, Christine from Australia, and I were the teachers who were asked to serve on the panel.  We spent our morning working with Beth Meyerowitz, VP of Faculty affairs at USC.  We discussed our potential responses and tried to arrive at a broad-spectrum approach.

We then rejoined the group for the “shark tank” presentations.  Many teachers had excellent ideas for ways to incorporate IWitness testimony and lessons into their curriculum.  The junior interns served as the “sharks” and raised excellent questions and offered insights into increasing student engagement with the activity.  During that time, we were joined by the founder of The Shoah Foundation, Mr. Steven Spielberg, and Mr. David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications.  What an honor it was to have them join our group!

After “shark tank” wrapped up, we heading to the museum’s beautiful auditorium for the panel.  There, the mission group from The Shoah Foundation, the educators’ group, and staff from The Shoah Foundation and Discovery Education were in the audience.  The four teachers I mentioned earlier served on the panel, as did four members of the youth interns group and a regional consultant for The Shoah Foundation, Michelle Clark.  

Kori Street, the Director of Education at The Shoah Foundation, moderated the panel.  Each teacher was given two minutes to speak, and each student had about thirty seconds to respond to a question.  Teachers started the day with a debrief about our work and meetings yesterday.   At the end, Michelle did an excellent presentation - including an original poem - to conclude that portion of the panel.  Then, Kori opened the floor for questions from the audience.    Here is a brief summary of what I presented (at least this is what I think I said!):

I am so honored to be a part of such an amazing group of educators working to make the past become present in our schools. I regularly use Discovery Education in my classroom.  The partnership between IWitness and Discovery Education brings together two experts to enhance classrooms in the digital age.  Both of these platforms are essential in a technology-oriented school system like mine where students are on devices much of the time.  My students have already been using IWitness - participating in the 70 Days of Testimony and completing projects like an Information Quest and “My Story Matters.”  Next year, I will incorporate IWitness into my larger Holocaust unit that spans seventh and eighth grade and students will be able to make a connection with real survivors as they study historical fiction and some nonfiction about the Holocaust.  I also mentioned how I like that students have choice in many of the activities that are already available, and I like the flexibility of creating my own activities for students to complete.  I can reach several literacy and technology goals through IWItness.

After we completed the panel discussion, we headed up to lunch.  Due, I suppose, to the arrival of additional special guests, our menu was a little more elaborate.  I made the mistake of selecting some type of pate, and I certainly would be okay with not ever tasting that again!!

Toward the end of lunch, Mr. Zaslav, from Discovery, invited me and the other panel teachers to come speak with Mr. Spielberg.  He called me by name and said how pleased he was with what I said and how Mr. Spielberg was so engaged with my statements and even tapped him on the leg while I was talking. (AAHHHH!)

Mr. Spielberg was so kind and genuine.  As many of you know I had been concerned about what I would say to him; I worried unnecessarily.  He asked us all why we became teachers, and we talked quite a bit (thanks to Karen!) about the changing model of the classroom from a teacher-centered to a student-centered focus.  It was such a pleasant and easy conversation, and it is certainly one I will never forget.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs with him, but there was one group photo that I hope to post later.

I am so excited about the union of IWitness and Discovery Education and the broad-based viewership they bring to the table. I am absolutely overwhelmed at the opportunity to sit and work among the nation's best teachers with the sponsorship of these two great educational powerhouses. It is truly amazing that a little girl from a tiny little town in rural Alabama has gotten to travel around the world to work with some talented people to help impact education and commemorate one of history's greatest tragedies. I am truly thankful for this opportunity.


After lunch, we quickly gathered our things and headed to the bus for an ever-so-quick drive around part of Warsaw.  We saw the monument that commemorates the deportation of the Jews from Warsaw.

We also had a short stop at the Jewish cemetery  in Warsaw that dates back several hundred years.  I wish we had been able to stay there longer.  The cemetery had beautiful monuments; they were quite close together and had a variety of shapes and sizes.  Most were in fairly good condition for their age.  

We then had a longer-than-anticipated drive to Krakow.  It had started snowing today, so we had to take a less-direct route in order to stay on major thoroughfares.  We just had a very late dinner (It’s 11:00 p.m.) here.  We will have a very early start tomorrow.  We meet at 7:10 in the morning to depart for our tour at Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.  I know it will be an emotional experience.

I apologize for no pictures tonight.  I will try to upload many tomorrow to share.