Archive for May, 2013

MESSAGES FROM A SLOW AND STEADY SPRING

May 26, 2013 Comments Off on MESSAGES FROM A SLOW AND STEADY SPRING General

MESSAGES FROM A SLOW AND STEADY SPRING

Apple Blossom Stock Photo

We tend to have uneven springs in Western Pennsylvania – temperatures that may be quite warm one day followed by frost warnings the next. It is usually safe to plant by Memorial Day, but this will be a cold holiday weekend for us. We even had a frost warning last night.  I’ll wait a little longer to put in all the pretty annuals waiting on my front porch. Cool and rainy days in May and June are potentially aggravating to those who have already experienced a long, cold winter. But, for gardeners and nature lovers, even the coolest rainy morning is an opportunity to see the beautiful changes all around us. And, for me, it provides a quiet opportunity to look back and look forward.

I have the habit of touring my front and back yard daily these days to notice all the great and tiny changes. I’ve planted most of what is in my back yard myself – flowering bushes, evergreens, perennials, and a large border garden with many varieties of plants. In many ways, my yard tells me a personal story. This is because I have taken treasured plants and bushes with me from their first planting when I moved to Pittsburgh almost 28 years ago to the house where my husband and I live today.

For example, in early spring, two forsythia bushes bloom bright and golden yellow in the back yard. One time long ago, these bushes lived on the back hill of my parent’s home near Philadelphia.  After I grew up, when I visited my parents with my children, my father would usually want to give me flowers or a plant from the yard before we left. He was a very talented and dedicated gardener. At the end of one of my last visits to that home, my aging father asked if I would like some forsythia. When I said yes, we walked together and he dug some bushes out of the back hill. Already quite feeble, he fell to the ground at one point as he dug. I reached out my hand to help him up, but he wanted instead to rise to his feet himself.  When he finished digging out the bushes, we carried them to my car; they made the trip back to Pittsburgh in great form. I planted those lovely bushes in the back yard of my first house in Pittsburgh, and then brought them with me to the home in which I live now.  They mean a great deal to me.

Here are some other things I planted in my first yard and moved to my second –a beautiful red poppy that has at least 14 gorgeous annual blooms (the first flower arrived today), pink and white bleeding hearts, an orange and red day lily, two kinds of yellow coreopsis, a wonderfully fragrant pink peony, and a tall red rose that my former father-in-law planted as a seedling in my old yard while visiting from Florida years ago. These too mean a great deal to me.

One of my favorite treasures is a small rose bush with unusually lovely bright red blooms. My old former neighbors – two very brilliant elderly women who have since passed away—used to stand at their kitchen window to look out in the spring and admire that special red rose. Unfortunately, my beautiful rose grew sullen after being transplanted in my second yard, and experienced a steady decline for a few years. Finally, one spring, it appeared to be brown and dead. I sadly dug it out of the ground, and was surprised to see a very healthy set of roots. So, I located a super sunny spot and planted the roots, covering them in the winter and giving them careful attention the following spring. To my delight my beautiful rose returned, and has come back strong and steady every spring since. This morning, when I checked it, it was vibrantly green with many strong buds just waiting to bloom.

Seasonal changes, like all of life’s changes, are never completely linear. Spring brings almost unimaginable newness every year, even as it helps us to see back into our lives and hope for the days to come.  Plants and trees can be returning friends, reminding us of loved ones past and present. The miracles of spring are in rainy and darker days too – they give us an even greater chance to delight in the beautiful days past and those to come.

Written by Beatrice S. Fennimore a teacher educator focused on advocacy and social justice for all children

GRADUATION!

May 19, 2013 Comments Off on GRADUATION! General

GRADUATION!

One of the really wonderful things about being a professor is the annual experience of graduation. It is a glorious opportunity to celebrate the depth of meaning that acts of teaching and learning have in our lives and in the lives of all we touch. Of course it is a day of questions too – did we do our best? Have we done everything possible to support the best possible development in all who we have touched with our thoughts and words? We can really never be sure that we have – but knowing that we have truly tried brings sunlight to graduation day no matter what the weather may be.

When I first began my academic career at my current university, graduation took place in our rural football field.  We had a president with a magnificent speaking voice, and he would annually begin the graduation with words from an address that Adlai Stevenson gave to the Princeton graduating class of 1954. As we looked out into the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, his words would ring out:

“Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends. And don’t forget when you leave why you came.”

It was always the “…don’t forget when you leave why you came” that had the greatest meaning for me. We know why we became educators – our visions, our dreams, and our best intentions. But for many of us, the grind of ceaseless daily responsibilities can distract us from reflection on the greater meaning of our work. Every year, when I heard those words at graduation, I took a few minutes to remember why I wanted to teach and write and serve others. The idealistic thoughts that led me to the work still ring very true — tempered but not diminished by the reality of many years of experience. Our newer presidents have turned to different quotes and thoughts, but I still hang the above quote from Stevenson’s address on my office door at the end of every academic year.

Stevenson, in 1954, was speaking to a group of students who had grown up in the depression and came to maturity in the consciousness of world war and revolutionary turmoil. It was only six years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the very year of the Brown decision. He admitted that the world was not in a place where anyone had hoped it would be, and urged the students to be politically aware and active.

A good graduation address, like graduation day itself, helps us to look back and dream forward. We still have time to work for the benefit of our students and colleagues and for the common good of all.

Written by Beatrice S. Fennimore a teacher educator focused on advocacy and social justice for all children

THANK A DAUNTLESS WOMAN TODAY!

May 12, 2013 Comments Off on THANK A DAUNTLESS WOMAN TODAY! General

THANK A DAUNTLESS WOMAN TODAY!

Dauntless Women in Early Childhood Education

 I was a graduate student in the field of education for a long time! Of all the books I read over all my years of study, I think my favorite was called DAUNTLESS WOMEN IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. * This was one of the books that we read at Teachers College in a course with Dr. Leslie R. Williams on the history and philosophy of early childhood education. I was so charmed by the title, because it broke into the traditional and often fictitious assumptions about women who devote their lives to young children.

Although just at the start of my doctoral studies when I read this book, I was already aware of the discrepancy between the cultural assumptions that caring for children was one of the “gentle womanly arts” and the actual realities that women past and present encountered when they devoted their lives to children. Right beneath the surface of romantic views of the ways in which women were fulfilled by childrearing or teaching were the ripple effects of misogyny, the low social status attributed to devoting one’s life to young children, and a still unfinished revolution that made it very difficult for women to develop careers and gain financial stability while meeting their constant responsibilities as mothers, or caregivers of young children. As I have come to realize through my interests in advocacy, policy, and social justice – many of the women who have worked to make the world better for children over the years have been gentle but strong warriors who would not take no for an answer. They have advocated not only for children but for the condition and treatment of women worldwide. They have indeed been dauntless.

With this in mind, I’d like to suggest a wonderful way to honor women on Mother’s Day. This day is a great opportunity to recognize the courage, fortitude, and faithfulness that our mothers, or the women who cared about and inspired us, demonstrated in their lives.  It is also a great day to thank women for their strength of character and selfless perseverance. For example, I remember reading the obituary of an accomplished newspaper editor a few years ago. It quoted his warm memory of the grandmother who raised him and other boys who needed someone to step up to the plate and give them a home. He spoke of how she rose at 5:00 AM every morning to meet difficult and unsung daily responsibilities. “This,” he said, “was a women who led by example.”  Such a thought seems very beautiful to me. In the long run, our greatest examples are those who do what must be done so others can survive and thrive.

So many women have “led by example” by giving the great wealth of their physical, emotional, and spiritual strength to the needs of children in their care. I have been honored to know many of them – women who cared lovingly for children with demanding special needs, women who managed to feed and house their small children with almost no money, and women rich, poor, or somewhere in between whose life circumstances called them to rise above themselves and meet the needs of their families with heroic and persistent devotion.  These women are often invisible in our society – yet their contribution to the world is beyond measure. In the entirely personal and moral area of motherhood, many women past and present make valiant choices that enhance and protect the lives of those for whom they are responsible.

Three cheers for all the dauntless women! Be sure to thank one today.

*Please note that the book DAUNTLESS WOMEN IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, 1856-1931 was written by Agnes Snyder and published by the Association of Childhood Education International in 1972.

Written by Beatrice S. Fennimore a teacher educator focused on advocacy and social justice for all children

 

PITTSBURGH MARATHON SUNDAY MAY 5, 2013

May 4, 2013 Comments Off on PITTSBURGH MARATHON SUNDAY MAY 5, 2013 General

PITTSBURGH MARATHON SUNDAY MAY 5, 2013

We are having a beautiful sunny spring weekend in Pittsburgh, after a very long and cold winter. Tomorrow is the Pittsburgh Marathon. I will be racewalking the Half Marathon in memory or honor of those who died or were injured in the Boston Marathon this year.

“We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

(G.K. Chesterton)

See you next week for my Mother’s Day blog. Peace and love.