Sunday, April 24, 2011


"What shall I wear for the Easter Parade?

A dress that’s the color of marmalade

With a border embroidered in light blue cornflowers

Like the edge of a meadow after spring shower

And a matching hat round as a top you can spin

And elastic to hold it on under my chin

And brand-new shoes whiter than newly-poured cream

With heart-shaped, golden buckles that gleam;

And I’ll carry a small purse of butterfly blue

With a penny for me and a penny for you

To buy us both glasses of cold lemonade

When we walk, hand in hand, in the Easter Parade."

By William Jay Smith

I witnessed a unique parade at Kimball Elementary School in Seattle last Friday, the day before Spring Break officially started. Timing-wise it could have been an Easter parade, but in actuality it was a Small, Small World Parade. I was subbing in a second grade classroom that afternoon and we were busy learning about all sorts of eggs (robin, emu, dinosaur, etc) and creating an egg book I found on Enchanted Learning. I even showed the children how to blow eggs which could be kept forever. In the midst of the activity, parade music blared over the loudspeaker and the children jumped up screaming "Parade

They rushed to the back of the class which was open to all of the other 2nd grade classes and lined up along one side, with ill concealed anticipation. We were about to witness an international spectacle, part of the Story Path social studies curriculum which Kimball first graders had made their own.

With joyful music as its precursor, over seventy first graders appeared from around a corner, processing, one after the other throughout the school, in time to the music. The second graders were thrilled as they shouted encouragement , no doubt also reliving their own first grade experience the year before.

In preparation for this big day, students from all three first grade rooms had paired up to learn about the country of their choice. On parade day, one student carried a colorful banner representing the chosen country while his/her partner carried an ethnic "float", a small cardboard box decorated with items pertaining to that country . Many children were dressed in ethnic garb, creating a visual delight which surely would long be remembered. On and on they came, proudly carrying the fruits of their labor. More than thirty countries were represented this day, and I was amazed at the amount of prior classroom learning that must have taken place for this event.

Since it was so close to Easter I couldn't help but make a comparison to our country's first Easter Parade in New York City in the mid 1800s. That annual secular parade was a way for the exclusively white upper crust of the time to show off their new outfits and hats. Later, in 1948, a popular movie entitled Easter Parade, starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, was released, and Irving Berlin's song about the parade became an instant hit. To this day most people know the first line - In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, you'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade. In my opinion it was divisive. Those that "belonged" and those that didn't. The "haves" and the "have nots". Naturally as our country has evolved so has that traditional parade. Now, according to hundreds of people from around the world gather to show off their holiday finery, including some that are zany and outlandish. According to the article it is now "really a leisurely stroll up and down Fifth Avenue between 49th and 57th street. It starts in the morning and continues into the late afternoon. . . This year's parade also features activists from the gay community. Two different groups plan to meet in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral to honor those who lost their lives because of prejudice."

We keep hearing about how dismal our educational ranking is with the rest of the world, but what I saw last Friday displayed the best of what America has to offer. We are teaching our children to care and value those of different ethnicities. To be inclusive rather than exclusive. In a shrinking world, this value is one of our strengths. Like another old popular song proclaims, 'It's a small world after all."

Happy Easter to ALL Americans, regardless of their roots, cultural, social or financial status.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


"Life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, and nature in marking man's papers will grade him for wisdom as measured both by survival and by the quality of life of those who survive." Jonas Salk

Week #2: Our first Spanish test was Friday, on the conjugation of verbs ending in "ar". Other endings (i.e. verbs ending in ir or er) will be taught in the future. I'm pretty good at conjugating English verbs, so it shouldn't be a big leap to doing so in Spanish, right? Wrong! Here is an example:

In English, the infinitive (the word before conjugation) is to draw.

Singular: I draw, you draw, he/she/it draws Plural: we draw, you draw, they draw

In Spanish, the infinitive for draw is dibujar.

Singular: yo (I) dibujo, tu (accent on the tu) dibujas, el/ella/usted dibuja Plural: nosotros dibujamos, ustedes/ellos/ellas dibujan

On Thursday we were given twenty-four "ar ending" verbs in Spanish to memorize and conjugate in a quiz the next day. (groan). The groan became mental paralysis as I went over and over the verbs, finally commiting them to memory one minute, only to lose them the next. Was I falling victim to Alzheimer's, I fretted? I made flash cards, carrying them with me to the bathroom, in the car, to dinner and to bed, hoping the verbs would all sink in and stay there. Needless to say, my "A ethic" caused me to have a sleepless night.

The next morning I left early enough to find a nearby parking place, dashed in to a second-floor study room, and poured over the words yet again. Once in the classroom, after taking attendance, El Profesor put five words on the board, telling us to give both the meaning and conjugation of the words in the present tense. The verbs were draw, teach, watch, pay for and practice. Phew! I knew them all. He apparently said to use half a paper. I heard the half part, but didn't realize we were literally supposed to tear the paper in half. It was to be done within a timed period.

I finished proudly, ready to hand in my paper when, to my alarm, El Profesor wouldn't accept it because it wasn't on a half sheet of paper. Since my work went below the halfway line I couldn't just tear off half, I had to re-do the work, cramming it in as well as I could, with no chance to proofread what I had written before he said to stop writing.

He went on to teach about telling time (Que (accent mark) hora es), and while we dutifully worked with partners on a couple of exercises he was grading the quizzes. He passed out the corrected quizzes at the end of the period and I was horrified to discover a score of 7 out of 10 right answers. Definitely not an A grade! In my haste , on the word practicar, I had changed the c to g for some reason. Wrong! On ensenar, I left off something called a tilde which is a funny looking symbol above an n and which affects pronunciation. Wrong! On first person plural I put dibujamas instead of dibujamos. Wrong! Haste definitely made waste as the old saying goes, but such is the life of a student under pressure.

Lesson to be learned: Listen VERY carefully and follow every teacher direction. One poor soul had neglected to put his or her name on the paper. El Profesor crumpled the offending paper and threw it in the garbage can, while we students cringed at the thought it might have been us. That was definitely not going to be an "A" in the record book.

We filed out of the room at 9:20, some with broad smiles, and others looking shell shocked. After my original reaction I found humor in the whole situation, and have decided to frame my half sheet quiz as a reminder that A's aren't everything. By all accounts I must be the oldest student in the room. On the plus side I am not one of those senior citizens glued to the soaps on TV, or engaged in other relaxing activities. I'm keeping my brain busy, learning Spanish, and, hey! Maybe I can redeem myself on the next test and get that A after all. To help out, though, just in case, my husband ordered Rosetta Stone's Spanish lesson program. . . just in case. Chao

Sunday, April 10, 2011


It must be remembered that the purpose of education is not to fill the minds of students with facts…it is to teach them to think. ~ Robert M. Hutchins

April 4th found me circling the parking lot at Edmonds Community College in a vain attempt to find a space to park my car. For 15 minutes I drove around the campus, going ever further from my first class of the day - Spanish 100. Yup. I'm back in real college, taking ten credits towards renewing my teaching certificate.

Upon snagging a spot, panic set in when I realized how much time it would take me to walk across campus to my 8:30 a.m. class in Room 204 in Snoqualmie Hall. Being late is not my style, and certainly being late for my "first day" would not be cool. However, as I scurried along I found I was not alone. My fellow students were apparently doing the same, faces intent, coffees in hand.

I wasn't sure what to expect because it had been half a century since I was a freshman at the University of Washington, taking a full schedule of 100 level courses. Literally huffing and puffing I managed to arrive at the same time as the teacher, and slipped with relief into a second row seat. My first impression was how quiet everyone was. My second was seeing true diversity in age, race, and physical capability. In my first college experience all those years ago, the classes were filled with young, mostly white faces, and socializing, or should I say flirting, was a natural part of the educational process. After all, in those days girls were in college to get their "MRS." degrees. Right?

Here students ranged from 17 or l8 years of age to 60 +, with most in their 20s and 30s. One older fellow was getting a language requirement out of the way so that he could transfer to a special program at the U.W. Ditto a young mother trying to get into the nursing program at the same place.

The instructor was a brusque, no nonsense male in his fifties, who spoke in a heavily accented voice. Actually at the end of the period I decided he was pretty cool! After taking roll he spoke in a rapid fire mix of English and Spanish, and I was scribbling down notes as fast as I could, while also trying to understand what the heck he was saying.

In going over the syllabus he stressed the importance of classroom participation. Periodically he would ask a question requiring one of us to answer, but few were brave enough to try. Finally he asked a question I thought I could answer about the use of dipthongs in Spanish, but my answer did not meet with his approval. I think he said something like "on a scale of 1 to 5 with one being the lowest, my answer might be a 2". Since I have a 4.0 mentality this beginning salvo did not bode well for my future "A" grade.

At 9:20 the class ended and I dashed out the door to find my next class, beginning piano. It was located across the campus, and I was again out of breath when I arrived. Already I could see a benefit to my studies. Weightwatchers and my doctor have long been urging me to walk, and suddenly I am put in a situation where I must walk far and fast. Could it be that I will finally lose those pesky pounds?

The instructor, a warm, friendly woman probably also in her fifties, was flitting about making sure that each of the twenty-five or so students was sitting at a working keyboard. She was welcoming and outgoing, and I had the feeling that I just might be able to do o.k. in the piano playing department. The set up in the classroom was amazing. Each keyboard was hooked into some kind of electronic console at the front, and once we had all donned headphones, the teacher could talk to us as a group or individually if we pressed a button on our keyboards. She could also listen to us play solo the same way. This seemed like an efficient and effective way to teach the class.

A week has now passed and here are some major differences from fifty years ago, and insights gained.

First, despite all the media attention to the woes of higher education, EDCC seems to be doing a fine job of educating kids, from the point of registration to sitting in the classroom. I can now speak with some authority as I have "been there and done that!"

Fifty years ago I was a seventeen year old farm girl, excited to be away from home and living in a dormitory pretending to be all grown up. Dorm life was different from sorority life (less social but still fun), meeting other girls who would become lifelong friends. Much time was spent conjecturing and giggling over the attentions of this boy or that. I was not looking for an MRS. Degree, but still it was fun to dream. The girls lived on one side of the campus, the boys on the other, and the thought of panty raids was deliciously exciting. Curfew was 11:00 on weeknights and 2:00 on Friday and Saturday.

Now I am a senior citizen, mother and grandmother, with a specific purpose - certificate renewal. There must surely be giggling, hopeful girls somewhere on the EDCC campus or in class, but somehow the kids seem more focused and mature than I felt at the same age. Perhaps that is the nature of a community college with the vast majority being commuters, rather than at four-year schools where many live on campus, in a protected, youth-oriented environment.

Fifty years ago, the student body was largely white, as were members of the basketball and football teams. There was a "foreign student" presence, but those students were in the minority. The age range seemed to be 17-22. If one was handicapped the facilities were limited. A senior citizen student was rare indeed.

Now at community colleges and the University of Washington, one sees large numbers of international students chattering away in a multitude of languages. The teaching staff is equally diverse. Facilities allow for even seriously handicapped students to feel comfortable. Sport teams are full of minority students.

Fifty years ago I remember going to a gigantic building on the UW campus where registration took place. Everything seemed big - the majestic library, the buildings surrounding the Quad, Frosh Pond, the long walks between dorm and classes, especially science, historic Denny Hall and, of course, the HUB or student union building where we met up with friends. It was hard to find one's way around. To this day I find the immense campus confusing.

Now, at EDCC, I find buildings that are well marked , strategically placed direction markers in various pedestrian areas, and, when all else fails, maps to show where everything is located. Walking across campus is doable. The buildings are attractive and serviceable. They do the intended job.

Fifty years ago a few lucky young people, mostly guys, had cars. Most did not. We walked around campus and down to the "Ave" where we shopped, saw a movie, or ate out occasionally. Rarely did we go downtown, but if so, we took busses. There were few parking areas, and parking was not a problem.

Now it seems like most college students have wheels, although there are many who also take the bus. This means that large areas of campus must having parking for staff and students alike. I think EDCC has a leg up compared to other colleges. I didn't have to pay for parking, I simply have to get there early enough to find a space. This was problematic the first week, and I found I needed to come earlier and earlier to snag a spot.

Fifty years ago cost of tuition at the University of Washington was listed at $25.00 per quarter for residents, with 15 + credits a full load. That would be $75.00 per year. Is that even possible? EDCC did not exist at that time. The cost was within the budget of most kids if they worked, and the post-college debt load was insignificant unless you were in medical school.

Now The annual tuition is $8,701 for residents at the UW. At EDCC the present day cost for a full load (ten or more credits) is $870.00 per quarter or approximately $2700.00 per year. The debt load for loans and other money acquisitions, despite healthy scholarships and grants, is huge and hard to pay back.

And the biggest change . . . Technology!

Fifty years ago I lugged my old manual Underwood typewriter to college and used it for term papers and letters home. Some papers were handwritten. One prayed for no mistakes because corrections were messy and there was no such thing as liquid paper. When an easy-erase paper arrived on the scene we rejoiced. Based on today's standards and output of information, I honestly don't know how we survived.

Now we register on line, talk to the professors on line, use an on-line resource called Blackboard, that I don't yet fully understand, and in general have student academic lives dictated by the internet. As an aside, referring to the importance of the internet in our daily lives, during my first week of school our home phones and internet connections went ka-put and we were lost until a repairman arrived.

So what is the lesson to be learned? Every generation has its good points and bad, its problems and solutions.

Fifty years ago I loved living on campus, socializing and making lifelong friends. It helped to shape who I am and what my contributions to the world are. Part of me is sorry that many of today's young people cannot have that experience. It kept us young and blissfully ignorant about life's problems for a few extra years.

But now, in this age of technology, young people grow up faster and are more informed. Ignorance is not possible. Therefore, I am pleased to see the seriousness and apparent dedication of the present day students, at least at the community college level. They are dealing with the hand life has dealt them, and are eager to make their own marks on the world. Sadly they will have other problems to deal with such as our economy, world-wide unrest, environmental issues and the like. Somehow I hope and believe today's young people will rise to the occasion.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


"Every good act is charity. A man's true wealth hereafter is the good that he does in this world to his fellows." Moliere

April 15. . . We all recognize that date if we have made money during the year. The IRS stands by to take its fair or unfair share of that, depending on one's point of view. Many have already faced the music and filed. Millions of others wait until the last possible moment to put their returns in the mailbox. If you are one of the latter, and need a tax write-off of some kind, consider this. Charitable donations are the life blood of many community organizations, foundations and churches. Your contributions are tax deductible and can make it possible for many worthwhile groups to continue their good work.

We, for example, support Edmonds Community College, United Way, the American Diabetes Association, Cocoon House, the Seattle Symphony, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and several others. Our favorite foundation is our own, the Martin Luther King School Dream Foundation. May I suggest that you put it on your list of future giving? You would be making it possible for many Seattle area young people to have a chance at getting a higher education, whether it is the local beauty school, a community college or the most prestigious four year university in the country.

A banquet honoring this year's crop of winners and their families will take place on Monday, May 23 at the Mount Zion Baptist Church. They will join the ranks of over one hundred former winners, most of whom are leading busy, productive lives, and some of whom have reached a certain level of celebrity.

We all know that Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. Through his vision and dedication he and millions of others began a civil rights movement to eliminate racism, paving the way for the first African-American president to be elected. I think most people have dreams, no matter how simple. Some realize them while others look back wistfully at the "if onlys" in life.

The Dream Foundation makes it possible for some disadvantaged young people in Seattle to take that important first step to a productive future. Since 1999 over one hundred scholarships have been given. Many have graduated from or are attending well known universities such as the University of Washington, Clark Atlanta, NYU, USC, and more. Others have attended various Washington state community colleges and technical schools. Some have enrolled in certificate programs, getting good jobs upon graduating.

My husband and I started this foundation after an unexpected financial windfall. For seventeen years our dedicated board has provided stewardship of our funds and added its own. Others have chipped in as well. Perhaps you would like to add your financial assistance to help young people in the Seattle area achieve their dreams. Go to and check out how we started and what we are all about. Click the "donate button" to provide a donation that will insure anything from a book or student fee to a year of college. Such a donation allows you to help someone achieve a dream, and it's a great feeling! Not only that, it's tax deductible, and you'll get another good feeling come tax time.

Beyond that, what matters to me is to make a difference in someone's life, to help them realize their dreams, and to throw a financial stone that ripples out into the future. Edwin Hubbel Chapin says it well. "Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity." Click on and throw out your own stone. It WILL make a difference.