Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Choice as I Move Forward

Reflecting on an experience such as the past weeks is difficult. There are so many emotions. The brain hasn’t had a chance to process and assimilate all the sensations.

Because of this experience, I wonder about my own prejudices. I find biases everywhere. I have thoughts about smokers and New Yorkers and men and hoodlums and ignorant people and fundamentalist religious followers and welfare abusers, and so many more. It’s hard to accept. I am certain people have these same thoughts about the various groups into which I find myself a member.

It saddens me because I felt like I was a person who looked at the individual, not the group stereotype. Yet, I have the same frailties of those who hate. Maybe the lesson we take from this exposure to the results of hatred is that we each carry prejudices within us. It is what we do during those moments when these biases rear their ugly heads that determines what kind of people we are.

Perhaps this is the lesson we teachers give to the children in our charge. Our choices have consequences. How do we make the choices? What do we do with the consequences of the choices we make? Ultimately, permit ourselves the time to consider and make a choice. I take from this experience that standing aside as a bystander is never the right choice. I must encourage my students to take a stand, to make a difference, and to change the world—no matter how small a scale that world might encompass.

This is the action I choose to take. It may be only a drop in this great big world, but I can’t wait to see how the ripples my drop makes will fan out and affect the ocean of our world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

721 words; thoughts while not able to sleep at 2:38 am CST, 07-29-08

I’ve returned home, and it’s been interesting. I read Irving’s book, I watched the DVD from the 2006 seminar a couple of times, now I’m reading Olga’s book. In my first year of teaching I used to go to Barnes and Noble a lot and read entire books while I was there. I told my students I did this and they accused me of stealing because I wasn’t paying for the books. In this way, on Sunday, I read Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Day by Elie Wiesel. Jewish Literacy was read because of my determination to come to some working order of the identity of Jewishness; I (and we) might be satisfied with ambiguity, but I don’t think my 8th graders will be. And on a side note: I don’t think acceptance of all will come when we become ignorant of our identities, but when we come to celebrate the uniqueness of our identities (GO SUE!). Day was read because it was there, and I hadn’t read it yet. It is an amazing book; the writing reminded me of two of my favorite authors: Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. When me and my college buddies discovered The Stranger we never knew someone so intelligent and so dead could describe absurd existence with so few words; it always took us a long time to try to explain anything. I’m quite sure Wiesel is not an existentialist, but his despondency in Day is so complete that I’m sure I’ve only encountered it in Camus and Sartre (and maybe Chuck Palahniuk, but maybe I don’t read widely enough). I took notes as I read, both of the actual words Wiesel used (in my opinion it is his best work I’ve read) and my responses to his words.

Just at the end of the six o’clock hour I read this: “I wanted to get rid of all the filth that was in me and graft it onto her pupils and her lips, which were so pure, so innocent, so beautiful. I bared my soul. My most contemptible thoughts and desires, my most painful betrayals, my vaguest lies, I tore them from inside me and placed them in front of her, like an impure offering, so she could see them and smell their stench.”

According to my journal, at 7:02 pm, this was my response: I want to eat glass. I want to pound car hoods and scream and cry – no weep. I want to bleed a thousand times over and walk through crowds of witnesses with questioning eyes and jaws hung open out of horror. I am a murdered, an adulterer, and a thief. I don’t know how to wake up in the morning. The only thing I want is to hate myself even more. And now my eyes wander, imagining: smiles and laughter, family, and happiness.

In his “Preface” to The Myth of Sysiphus, Camus writes: “The fundamental subject of ‘The Myth of Sysiphus’ is this: it is legitimate and necessary to wonder whether life has a meaning; therefore it is legitimate to meet the problem of suicide face to face. The answer, underlying and appearing through the paradoxes which cover it, is this: even if one does not believe in God, suicide is not legitimate. . . . Although ‘The Myth of Sysiphus’ poses mortal problems, it sums itself up for me as a lucid invitation to live and to create, in the very midst of the desert.”

Somehow, in all the absurdity, Camus found a way to be encouraged by bleakness; this is the greatest difference between him and Wiesel. Camus relished the absurd life; Wiesel was pushed into it. In the “Preface” to Day, Wiesel explains that he had to change a few specifics to fictionalize his encounter with the cab in New York; he really didn’t see the cab, so his accident wasn’t a suicide attempt. Still, in his story, it had to be faced. In Night he was the messenger of death, witnessing the murder of his family and his people, and walking away a corpse. In Dawn he brought death to the doorstep of his enemy. In Day, he faced self-imposed death, and discovered “to be and not to be. . . . That man lives while dying, that he represents death to the living.”

Friday, July 25, 2008

Shoah, New York - Stephen Smith

Steve emailed his final reflection piece and asked me to post it. Enjoy!!

Shoah, New York

“We are always afraid of falling so we balance ourselves.”
Louise Bourgeois

Broadway and 42nd Street

The sound of July escaping,
a musician moving air
with the striated muscles of an ex-junkie,
flexed stance of a subway vet. A bluesy flute, moving fetid air, moving me
past furtive glances, cold stares.
He blows long cascading notes as we enter the station,
bracing his body against the slowing train, against our leaving,
hands on the final notes, balanced.

The notes, strung out along the tracks,
climb the stairs, move through turnstiles,
funnel, then spread up and down Broadway
to heaven and hell.

The train has stopped but no one moves. Silence hangs.

I expect applause, but get a last ironic note:

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for that wonderful round of applause…

…If you can find it in your heart
to make a small donation, I would truly appreciate it. This is Times Square,
please watch your step as you leave the train.”

Broadway and 12th Street

At Strand’s in the Village I hold the new translation of Elie Wiesel’s Night. The New York Times calls it a “slim volume of terrifying power.” After fifteen city blocks and three beers I have not escaped day three of a two-week seminar on “Reading, Writing, and Teaching the Holocaust.” Today, we met Gisa, a Holocaust survivor.

In clumps of syllables she tells us “After the war was a famous slogan—‘Never again,’ but that I think is lie.” We nod and take notes—boxcars of 80 people traveled for three days and nights, without water, one bucket for shit and piss. The waste ran down her legs, where it caked and dried. When they arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, she saw the smokestacks—“What is belching out like that? Why is it stinking? Why white particles—like butterflies—we didn’t know.”

At 84, she is small, slight, with dark eyes, dark hair, and a direct gaze.
I am reeling from her words.

“…ate clumps of grass, boiled up like spinach soup.”

“…had to undress in front of men…and the world, because this was our world.”

“…if you wanted to finish your rotten life, you could run to the electric fences.”

She watched her mother taken out and shot in her hometown, watched her older sister and little brother march to the shower where they were gassed. Her sister, knowing what awaited them, tossed her braided hair back, took her brother’s hand and went left. Gisa felt the ponytail brush her face, and went right.

How did you survive? I want to ask.

One time she laughed at her friend’s childish prank, but told us “You cannot laugh with crematoria belching out human skin.”

When she finishes answering questions,
Gisa, “slim volume of terrifying power,”
asks to use the restroom.

36 Battery Place

From the windows of the Museum of Jewish Heritage I see Ellis Island
and the Statue of Liberty. Under brilliant blue sky the harbor teems with ship traffic, with life. We are studying primary sources, trying to understand the cold steel engineering of the Nazi war machine.

“Ninety-seven thousand Jews have been processed in the trucks to date, but minor operating defects have been discovered and we recommend the following improvements.”

Like my Krupps coffee maker, an efficient machine, but the filter clogs occasionally, spilling coffee. I should write the company.

“It would be desirable in future to install electric lights, shielded by a steel grill, in the ceiling of the truck. For it is dark in the car when the doors are closed, and when the exhaust gas begins to be piped in, the result has been panic and loud screams, which make the work of the drivers more difficult and may attract undesirable attention.”

Some of my fellow teachers are gasping, some crying. When we take a break, anger and horror spill out of the conference room. How do I teach this to fifteen year olds? What pedagogy is there for efficient, technological mass murder?

“In addition it is desirable to make the cars shorter—although we are aware of the concern expressed by the engineers regarding the increased pressure on the front axle. There is no need for concern about the overweight on the front axles of the trucks, for the merchandise, without exception, is pushed together during the journey and, for understandable psychological reasons, pressed to the locked doors at the rear end, so the weight will nevertheless be well distributed on both axles.”

I look up from this document, checking the blue, the harbor, and Liberty.

Delancey at Essex, Lower East Side

We do a fine job of memorializing those we have slaughtered. Some of us have become very rich off the tragedy of others. In Hollywood, they say there’s no business like Shoah business. Ask Steven Spielberg.

In the last year, I’ve read reviews on three new films about the Rwandan genocide. For this year’s National History Day competition, one of my students developed a website on the Khmer Rouge that took her all the way to Washington DC.

One can now take a virtual tour of the “most significant act of domestic terrorism on American soil,” the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The website encourages the tourist to visit “the famed gates and empty chairs to appreciate the beauty and serenity.”

Many cities in our country have a street or park named after Martin Luther King, and they’re often a symbol of a city’s health. Detroit’s Martin Luther King Blvd is a mass of potholes and weedy sidewalks, but I found a beautifully maintained MLK park tucked away in the Lower East Side.

In New York City, there seems to be a museum for most oppressed groups, including Jews, American Indians, Chinese, and even tenement dwellers.

New York teachers can adopt a Holocaust survivor. It’s almost as easy in places like McCool Junction, Nebraska and Paradise, Michigan. We can meet a death camp survivor on line, say from Bergen-Belsen, ask questions, get to know him or her...sort of.

Despite our efforts to honor and remember, to share stories, to teach the past in order to inform the present, we continue the horror. “Never again” is a phrase completely devalued by our repeated history. And when we’re not killing, we ignore, even those we honor. By one count, today there are over 100,000 Holocaust survivors living in poverty.

Maybe it is enough to survive as something other than our original self.

Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street

Even looking at Rodin’s “Les Bourgeois de Calais ,”
it is not easy understanding man’s horror
when he faces death.
My daughter presses for an explanation.
Then he appears at my side, like a docent, speaking earnestly
about the sculptor, the subject, his own life and his father.
It is more than I need, but I am relieved of parental duty.
I never learn his name, even later when we shake hands,
so I think of him as Frank.

He points to the figure of Jean d’Aire, the second burgher to volunteer
for death. d’Aire stands wide, jaw set, holding
one of the keys to the city, a noose about his head.

“That’s my guy. He’s got that thousand-yard stare.”

I cannot see his eyes. Rodin’s figure is looking beyond death.

“You were in ‘Nam.”

“Thirty-nine months.”

d’Aire stands outsized with enlarged hands and feet,
a paradox of emotions on his face: proud but overcome, hollowed
yet living fully in this last moment of breath.

Frank is here every Saturday, working a few hours at the information desk. After his shift, he tours one of the galleries, piecing together the art and history, but he always ends his day in front of “Les Bourgeois de Calais”—“it’s a French sculpture for the French people, but they didn’t like it because it wasn’t heroic.”

Frank has burn scars on both arms, a twitch in his right eye. After he’s told us everything he must know about the sculpture, I tell him about my friend Irving Roth, a death camp survivor. When the Allies liberated Auschwitz, Irving was 15 years old. “Now, you may have pondered the Messiah, but I saw him—one was black and one was white, they were strong and healthy, and gave us pork beans, and when they saw us, they broke down and cried. Never seen walking skeletons.”

Frank’s eyes well up, but not from the obvious.
“My dad told that story. He was there, too. We could never really talk—we both served, but our wars were different. That’s the only time I ever saw him cry, when he told that story.”

I listen as d’Aire as Rodin as Irving Roth as Frank as Frank’s father
talk through death,
breathing a museum to life.

1.Lower East Side Tenement Museum, 90 & 97 Orchard Street
2. Holocaust Resource Center,
3. The Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais) is one of the most famous sculptures by Auguste Rodin, completed in 1888. It serves as a monument to an event in 1347 during the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais, an important French port on the English Channel was under siege by the English for over a year. England's Edward III, after a victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais and Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege and starvation eventually forced the city to parley for surrender. Edward offered to spare the people of the city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out almost naked and wearing nooses around their necks and be carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first and five other burghers soon followed suit. They stripped down to their breeches and Saint Pierre led this envoy of emaciated volunteers to the city gates. It is this moment and this poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice and the facing of imminent death that Rodin captures in his figures. In history, though the burghers expected to be executed, their lives were spared by the intervention of England's Queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband by saying it would be a bad omen for her unborn child. The original work is in Calais, while several sites own a casting, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (adapted from Wikipedia)

Bits of My Reflection

In the end, I feel an extreme sense of possibility. My mind runs over and over – how can I make a difference? How can I look at the world in a new way while also engaging my students to do the same? It is no secret that I find poetry as the vehicle for many of my thoughts and emotions. The following poem speaks to our power as educators. To steal a commonly used quote, we must be the change we want to see in the world. We have the power to affect generations to come – to educate the minds of the unborn.


I stand upon the threshold of possibility.
The door is ajar – the door
I can only pass through
as an individual.

It is easy, really, to be in a group
seeking to alter
common perception,
and pedagogy.

In a group we are fearless.
As individuals, what will we be?

Taking the passion,
spiraling outward –
ripples on the pond.
Throw a stone,
watch it splash,
sink – long gone by the
final ripple’s calm.
Sleeping, alone, on a riverbed of stones
But that ripple – the stone’s legacy –
does not remember the splash.

Throw a stone, watch it splash.
Sink deep with the memory of the moment.
Say the word,
cry the tears,
be fearless of the splash.
Look above, see a generation of ripples,
created from understanding.
Gratitude is unspoken, often unknown.

Stand on the threshold, take hold of the stone,
look at the water.
Cross through the door and
sink deep in the river – look up
to the surface.
Watch the ripples – feel the
gratitude of understanding taught
as the result of
one stone,
one thought,
one spoken word.

Profound legacy of the stone –
fearlessness not forgotten
but passed on.

If not now, when?

If every small act of indifference is allowed, tolerated, where will it lead? We all like to think that true evil is large and well defined. But in fact, it’s the tiny pin-prick – the first rain drop. Negativity and evil spread like cancer – consuming the healthy cells and sucking their life.

I must set out to bear witness to the small acts of indifference, to take notice when another’s prejudices are brought to the surface. This seminar has been my call to action. The people I’ve come to know and love will be my network of possibility. I will never be the same teacher, woman, mother, or human as a result of this experience and for that I will always be thankful.

To my fellow seminar members and facilitators –
This experience.
This learning.
This loss.
It’s about voices.
Like thread weaving a cloth –
the voices tell their stories to weave a picture
of what was,
what was lost,
and what must be.

I never want to forget the stories, the tears, the words, the tones, and the moments. We have come together in this beautiful city to share our understanding and confusion. I leave here with all of you – fingerprints on my heart. We came, we saw, we learned, we loved, and we spoke with our voices.

Twelve days ago we had not met and today you will never leave me. I love you all and am a better person for knowing you.

Thank you for an amazing experience!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Final Reflection: Poem

I Never Want to Forget Any of You
(In Remembrance and Celebration of “Reading, Writing, and Teaching the Holocaust,”
July 7 – 18, 2008)

By Valerie Diane Bolling

I never want to forget …
Sue’s tears which display her deep sensitivity for all living things and her desire to preserve beauty in the world as she does in her monolithic rock gardens
Tom’s strong sense of Catholicism, slow, easy smile, and poetic words from one who didn’t think he could write poetry
Beth as an inspiration to all young people that you can be born to a teenage mother, cope with family loss and personal illness, and still emerge with a Ph.D.
Thomas’ love for sports and music, and his remembrance of addresses and awareness of the kind of superiority competitive sports can breed
Steve’s ability to find poetry in the streets of New York and how wonderful it was that he could share this with his wife (his “passion and inspiration”) and valedictorian daughter
Jan’s ability to recognize that combating prejudice must start at home -- we must not only look at the atrocities committed on others’ soil but also on our own
Risha’s beauty, strapless dress or not, gorgeous singing and spoken voice, and love of shopping; I’ll also remember to keep Clay in my prayers
Danielle – Risha’s partner in crime -- if shopping for purses and cashminas is a crime, and her vast knowledge of technology and ability to weave words into magic
Billie’s spirit, knowledge and love of literature and plays -- oh to be a student in her classroom
Wendy’s melodic voice, coming from a place of wisdom and questioning and figuring out where she -- and we all -- might fit into this world
Ilka’s never-ending thinking, reflecting, and analyzing, and always her love of Gabryella and the color purple
Gail’s impressive knowledge of technology and of best practices for bringing it into the classroom
Debi’s energy and vitality, effervescence when sharing stories of Lucca, and “self-enrollment” in Jewish society
Leslie’s positive personality, knowledge and scrutiny of politics, and love of walking – thanks for the walking tour of SoHo and SoNo on a rainy evening
Pam’s caring about social justice, the relationships she’s cultivated for herself and her students with the children of Rwanda
Deanne’s cuteness, beautiful brown skin, enjoyment of Larry, and shouts of “Whoo-who!”
Larry’s sense of humor, beer drinking, and role as the creator of our blog -- a way for us to keep in touch and share ideas and writing
Angela’s initial exhilaration at being a part of the group -- a thrill that continued to grow throughout the seminar and ended in tears at the thought of leaving
Alice’s “hostess with the mostest” presence -- making sure we knew exactly how to get to where we were headed -- thank you for that wonderful day in Brooklyn, culminating in a pleasurable time spent at your home
Sondra’s sweet calm, even when she was forced to keep on us a tight schedule, and her openness about her teaching, writing, and personal identities -- thanks for sharing your children with us
Jennifer’s perfect teeth, reflective manner, and willingness to let me borrow her cashmina in the name of comfort and “fashion”
Gatsinzi’s honesty and emotion when apologizing to Gisa for not knowing there had been a genocide “worse” than the one that had claimed his family members in Rwanda
Pat’s decision to be a part of our group, despite family situations at home … and then having to depart suddenly when her family needed her more than we did

I never want to forget ...
How different, similar, and wonderful we all are
We are African, African-American, Native American, Filipino, Finnish, German, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Southern, Northern, Midwestern
We are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, grandparents, grandchildren, friends, readers, writers, thinkers, questioners, researchers
We are teachers
Striving to break the cycle of hate in our classrooms, student by student
And ultimately, the world
Educating not only our students but also family members and friends
So that they know there is no home for prejudice and genocide
In a civilized world
In a world in which we want ALL of our children to live

Monday, July 21, 2008

Simply Amazed!

I am simply amazed at all that is on this blog. There is no way I could view it all. I miss all of you -- our work together and fun times spent together. I will plan to post soon my final reflection -- where I celebrate each of you. Enjoy these weeks of summer.

: ) Valerie

P.S. I want to share two book titles with you -- not Holocaust-specific but related. The first is one I was reading while in NYC, Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, an Irish immigrant who, because of jaw cancer, undergoes surgery at age nine, which removes part of her face. What is more painful for her than the radiation, chemo, and numerous attempts at reconstructive surgery is how she's viewed, teased, ignored because of her looks. Unsurprisingly,Lucy internalizes this suffering as well.
The other book I'm currently reading is When She Was White by Judith Stone. This book really delves into the whole issue of race classification. One of the presenters talked about this at the Jewish Heritage Museum, and Gatsinzi talked about this with the Tutsis and Hutus. This book deals with this in the context of apartheid South Africa when a "coloured" child is born to a white couple. The racism, that supposedly isn't racism -- just protection of the child and her needs, is incredible. She is thrown out of her white boarding school, and her parents fight to keep her classification as "white," even when she is reclassified as "coloured." Of course, the obvious irony is that none of this would even be problematic if race classification were a non-issue.

Empty Space

I too feel a big empty space in my life, even though I am so glad to be back with my family. I finished Five Chimneys last night (I slept almost all the way home on Saturday), and like Night, and Survival in Auschwitz, Olga's story is hard to read and hard to put down. I am going to read Salvaged Pages next, on Thomas' recommendation, to try to find some primary texts for my students to read.

Our last evening together, full of singing and laughter, will remain with me always. Check out the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website for updates on Sudan and Darfur. You can sign up for emails that keep you up to date on that and other situations.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Holy Fire

from Wendie Marks

I wonder where everyone is. It does not seem quite correct that we have all gone our separate ways. There is so much that we have experienced and so much still to be said. Be well all.

The Holy Fire

Eyes burning for days; tears washing my face
If only one person could quench their thirst
and survive from my tears.

But no
It is too late
I have arrived too late
My heart swells aches cracks and seems to break

When will we the world recover?
How can we ask?
Hope to?
Dare to?
When so many have been lost?

There must be some meaning
We must make something of this
This raging fire hot blazes of combustion
Burnings, shootings, slaughterings, and so much more.
The annihilation of entire civilizations, a race.

But no! There are eighteen leafy green oaks pushing through stones.
Growing out of blue grey multi-colored boulders.
Something is surviving. Some have survived.

"These few these happy few?"

If Christ died for the peoples sin
Then is it possible that the holocaust
And the many other cruelties of mankind
May be a payment an exchange in the name of a higher good?

How might one understand the actions of murderers?

How might one transform all that we have seen
And all that we have remembered?
Is it the remembering that is the transformation?

Under crystal chandeliers we emerge
To higher forms of civilization: philosophy, art, music, poetry

Purification through fire gives birth to a refined humanity
An uplifted humanity.

Would you jump into the fire for a greater cause?
To transform all that you have seen and remember
Jump into the holy fire.
That is our great work.

There are bystanders and will be bystanders.
I am one of these too paralyzed and frozen
To be effective - to care about anything except ones own precious safety.

What if we stepped out?
What if we emerged from the grey stone
What if we were part of the rebirth of civilization.

Something passionate - yes
If only we could look through our eyes and not with them.

Will you come with me?
Let us jump into the holy fire.
To transform not once not twice but again and again
Let us join hands and jump together!

Friday, July 18, 2008


Ladies and Gents,
Most of you know I have been recording lines that I found amusing, inspirational, and somehow reflected our journey this past week. Some will be clear to all of you. Some will be clear to a few. A few of us thought some of the lines would make great prompts in our classrooms, especially the most profound. Read them. Enjoy them.
As you will...

Where does curiosity come from?
This was not just a workshop. This was a life experience.
I am in the process of becoming human.
Since I feel powerless, should I be relegated to garbage?
What are the conversations we don't have?
Romanticizing the past...
(Through clenched teeth) Take the [freakin'] picture, Larry.
Donna Reed was on.
Excuse ME!!!!!
Help me! I'm a [freaking] tourist.
I'm gonna talk about her even though she's here.
That's my shower song.
For posterity...
Maybe we can be with you when you get discovered.
We are going to be the dynamic duo.
I teach at this very exotic place called the lower east side.
It's biblical. That means from the bible.
Well, aren't I Captain Obvious?
Don't lick the bull's balls in Winter. (The one on Wall Street.)
What's the point? Is the point to gawk?
Christians wouldn't do this.
I know my parents did the best they could, but it wasn't enough.
Hot and taut.
What is it to be alive without spirituality?
Some trees gave their lives so they could be here.
I want to blow people's minds.
For two years, I was an illegal alien.
Close your legs, woman. (Bystander on subway)
What is this?.......It's a camera.
I invented gum.
If not now, when?
So, it's not a booze cruise.
She's got black-tipped fingertoes.
Where is freakin' Larry?
Boy, this chicken is really dry. (It's not chicken. LOL)
We all have an Alex.
If I have to lie, I do it.
But you look normal.
I have a Zach, not an Alex.
The most important thing is the conversation.
It's like water dropping on a stone.
There are certain people who you just feel you swim with.
Establish that line and give them that choice.
In your class, everyone gets the home court advantage.
Teachers who are closet Alexes???
Diarrhea is no cure for constipation.
A Jew is someone who bends rules and creates laws.
How do you define a race?
It's a question of time.
I'm guarding the door.
Maybe they should relocate.
To me, you need to ask for forgiveness to get forgiveness.
That's why I go to therapy.
Anger is the best anti-depressant I know.
Is there a book, Judaism for Dummies?
The Almighty Loophole
Oh, the food.
Surviving. Reviving.
This is Dr. Billy.
Put that in the blog.
My drag name is Dangling Participle.
Yeah, but you're an ignorant (un-knowing) hypocrite.
Mommy, Daddy sad at you.
What kind of pill did you need?
Sometimes you just gotta hide the ugly.
At the time, you cannot be that person.
Out of the tension comes the creativity. ~Jung
Any teacher can be a sanctuary.

It has been a blessing to spend this time with all of you.
Much love...Ilka

Day 8- The Lower East Side, Sailing, & Fireworks

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Several people asked me to provide everyone with the address of the website which has the short movie trailer (5 minutes) from "Forgiving Dr. Mengele" in which we see the two sides of the argument over forgiving the Nazis, or refusing to forgive them, so clearly portrayed by two survivors. It would make a great introduction or conclusion to the book "The Sunflower" if you are going to use it in your classes.

Copy and paste this link into your browser.

Gisela Glaser - Survival Story

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day Off in Brooklyn

Days 5 & 6

Irving Roth - Islamism

Where Am I Now?

So, please forgive me - these are a few of my random thoughts for today. If you read nothing else, find the last stanza and listen to its song.....

Child of the Sea

I search for quiet...for the peace that my soul is longing for.
In a dizzying world of fast and faster,
to find the calm necessary to draw upon often seems daunting.
The noise of busy is accompanied by the noise of learning.
Taking in, processing such strong emotion,
and utter inhumanity is mind numbing.
The orchestra of my thoughts whirls in a crescendo of bass
and wind
and trumpet
and steel.

This thing, this idea of forgiveness shakes to the core
my inner realization of life, of learning, and understanding.
To be on the precipice of knowledge leaves me squarely at the starting line.
What does it mean?
To speak aloud, is that enough?
The music of history plays to the drum of humanity.
Marching, pressing,
flying and falling.
The lullaby, a children's hymn,
calms our fears and disillusion envelops the reality
of what is and what will be.

Imagination is a question of reality.
What will life lead us to envision next?
But when dreams fall into a cascading river of blood
there are no words to be spoken.
Dreaming of quiet, of peace.
Imagining a world where dreams are in color
and the lullaby is soft, soothing.
No lure, no rapid rise and fall.

What does it mean, to forgive?
What does it mean, to understand?
Quiet and calm, words with no meaning.
Look at their eyes, their soft, brown,
dying eyes.
Live with their story.

Sing for their sorrow.
Hush little baby,
don't say a word.
Momma's gonna buy you a mockingbird.

Sing for their lives, marched into oblivian.
And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Momma's gonna buy you a diamond ring.

Sing for their hopes, their pain, and their joy.
And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Momma's gonna buy you a looking glass.

Sing for their faces, their reflection stolen.
And if that looking glass gets broke,
Momma's gonna buy you a billy goat.

Sing for their love, longing and life.
And if that billy goat runs away.

Sing for their babies, lost in feces and despair.
Momma's gonna buy you another day.

Sing for the child alone in a sea of corpses, calling for his mother.
Let your song blend with his desperate cries.
Allow the music on your lips to envelop his thin, naked body.
Sing until he is calm.
Hum the melody of a child's song as he kneels beside his mother's cold body.
Watch as he rests his head upon her breast.
See as he closes his eyes.
Feel as his spirit dies in a sea of ashes and flesh.
Breathe his last breath.
Walk forward with his story upon your lips.
Close your eyes, envision his life that will never be.
Find solace in your ability to speak.
Tell all of his song - screams stifled by hatred.
And always...sing for the child of the sea.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Analyzing photos

This is a worksheet that you can use to help students decipher and "read" photographs.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Avenue Q

I told Larry I didn't plan on posting simply because I was busy being a tourist, but in the interest of appeasing him, and offering up some interesting information for those who attended Avenue Q, I present the following link.

Avenue Q Soundtrack

On this page you should find the entire sound track of Avenue Q, in mp3 format compatible with iPods or other players. Simply right click on each song, and "save target as" to wherever you keep your songs on your computer, and you'll have the soundtrack for free.
Enjoy, and thanks for being a great group of people.


Irving Roth _ Survival Story

Adopt Irving

Weekend Pictures from around New York

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Day 4 - Irving Roth & Shabbat

Thoughts jotted down on t.p.


We gather here in a sacred place,
a house that belonged to her.
We examine this topic called Holocaust
listening to their tragedies.
Tears fill our eyes.
Pain enters our being.
We feel the attack
through years and space.

She makes us laugh with
her humor as she tells her tale.
The friend for whom she almost gave all.
Did this friend ever say "Thanks"?
Her quiet strength and determination
giving us much to admire.

He tells his tale of adversity
and loss,
but with a little twist.
He begs us to take his place.
Remember him.
Learn to be him.
Become him and others
as time moves on.
We cannot help but feel
the need to step in
and adopt this powerful legacy.

And yet...

We gather here in this sacred place
to honor those who suffered,
still thinking them and us.
Not realizing the comments
being said...
as walls are being torn down,
the stones and sand are simply shifting,
transferring over to newer, smaller walls
just starting to

"They honor God in a strange way,
different from what I know."
And there is laughter.
"They could have prevented the tragedy
of lonely children,
if only they cared."
And there are nods.
"They are ruining this country
with their policies and beliefs."
And there is agreement among us.

The lesson here is that the world consists
of shades of gray,
some dark
some light.
All creating an image of lives.

You honor God a different way than I,
and we share.
You have made mistakes,
and I still see the good you have achieved.
I don't agree with your politics,
and you are free to believe
as you wish.

We should share
what makes us unique
without fear of consequence.
We should honor those differences
and seek common ground.
We should not be us and them.

learned, did we not?
Us and them
leads to hate and death.
Us and them
leads to conflict.
Us and them
leads to pain
and shame
and closed spaces.

Throw out us and them.
Become you and me and us and we.

You may think differently,
but I listen to your reasons and comprehend.
You look different.
Your skin may be a different color.
Your features may be composed of different lines and shapes.
You are beautiful to me.
You live a different life, but
we still share a common bonds,
of family and love
and hope for our children's future.

We can agree to disagree
because I value
all the pieces of you.

And once this is accepted,
us and them
becomes we
and the pain, tragedy, and killing stop,
because we are now one.

Not content to be bystanders
Check out this article in the New York Times. A priest and nun are giving shelter and aid to families of undocumented workers in a meat processing factory in Iowa who have been arrested by ICE. Both are receiving hate mail. Also check out the Pyramid of Hate, which shows how small acts can lead to, ultimately, to genocide.

Shabbot dinner last night was one of the most moving things I ever experienced. Thank you.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I was asked to share some pieces that I wrote today....

To Gisela~

My students must know you. They must hear you. They must feel with you. Their reality is far removed from Jewish heritage. They know no Jewish people. They are unfamiliar with Judaism. There is no prior or existing prejudice toward Jews.

These are the reasons that it is crucial for them to have an intimate understanding. They carry with them two things - 1) their own prejudices, and 2) their susceptibility for believing prejudices and stereotypes. It is my responsibility to educate their minds to ensure that one day, upon entering a new environment, they will become the educators. They will know the truths of what it means to be Jewish. The myths that the ignorant are selling will not be accepted as truth. It is
not a free pass to exclude Jewish teaching simply because my students are unfamiliar with a Jew.

They must know you. They must understand that being Jewish is alive and that your story is part of their story as a member of the human race.


To be educated.
What does this mean?
What implications does it bring?

To be educated.
What sort of freedom does it allow?
What type of understanding does one truly need?

It is not enough to teach information.
because in order to learn,
we must first understand.

Education cannot be void of emotion.
Personal connections on a scaffolding
of why's and how's.
Questions are seeking,
understanding is finding
and seeking again.

To be educated.
What does it mean?

To be educated.
How does it change who we thought we were
or how we will be?

~ ~ ~
Thank you all for your words of encouragement and wisdom this week. Tonight as I spoke to my husband, I looked through the computer, across worlds, and cried. There are no words to describe this moment in time. I cried because of people I had not met five days ago, but now love. I cried because I was brought here for a reason - a purpose. My husband cried. Despite the slightly blurred image and his inability to grasp everything I was trying to say, he somehow understood the power on which I now stand. He felt my heart, he knew that the wife he left at the Omaha airport would come home a different woman. He did not grieve for the lost wife, he celebrated the new woman. He is proud of me, and that is enough for anyone.

Our passion is powerful - let's make it contagious.


Half Way Through (almost)

This is my first blog attempt so be kind. I wanted to share to a small degree the emotional roller coaster that these first 5 days have been. As you know, after hours I have reconnecting with friends that I haven't seen in 25 or 30 years, and that has been extremely rich, but also tinged with sadness as I see in their faces the 16 year olds they were, and now in their mid-50s we are looking at the down-sloping part of the metaphoric life-hill. But it is so wonderful to see them. Layer this on top of the readings, lectures, museum exhibits, survivor testimony, and I wonder how many more emotions I can feel. I want to say that the humor interspersed with all the rest is what keeps me sane (a relative state), and I thank you all for that and for the caring that everyone is showing one another. Deep breath and on to another day, another adventure, another discovery.

Day 3 -- Gisela Glaser

Day 2 Holocaust Seminar

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Looking forward to July 7

Hello Everyone,

I feel very privileged to be joining this group and just by reading your posts am already broadening my understanding of common threads that connect 20th to 21st century genocides. I've just finished reading Diane Ackerman's The Zookeeper's Wife, a true story set in WWII Warsaw. When I saw Larry's introductory post, I clicked on the links to learn more about Irena Sendler. The following day, on a flight home (Placerville, CA) from San Antonio, I delved into Chapter 18 of Ackerman's book and discovered that Irena Sendler was also a frequent guest of the Zabinskis, Warsaw's Polish Christian zookeepers, who managed to save over 300 Jews, hiding many of them in empty zoo cages. I stand back in awe of rescuers and upstanders.

As a teacher (currently providing tech integration support to teachers in a K12 district), I struggle with the question of what's the appropriate age to introduce the topic of genocide. I feel that 4th grade is too young, yet as I visit classrooms, I still see on display the same type of California Mission projects that I had to do as a 4th grader (except now you can purchase put-together models at stores such as Michaels. Although I still see the ever-popular sugar cube constructions). I have also noticed that our district's adopted thematically organized language arts textbook includes a selection from Anne Frank's Diary...within the "Survival" theme!?

George Mayo, an 8th grade teacher from Maryland, started the Many Voices of Darfur Project last year, which involved students as young as 3rd grade. I think maybe the key piece of exposing students, especially young students, to genocide is providing them with opportunities and venues for taking social action. With that in mind, I'm thinking of building a unit of study for high school students around Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone - Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

I'm starting to bag my bag and will make room for my walking shoes. In Placerville (in the Sierra foothills, 1/2 way between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe), I enjoy starting my mornings riding the bike trail. When I'm somewhere without my bike, I love to start the day with a walk - and am hoping some of you are also up for early morning walks:-).

See everyone soon,


Good morning and Happy 4th of July. It is a wonderful warm and sunny day here in Yankton, South Dakota, and before I begin the potato salad making process, I would like to introduce myself. Although I am part of the Holocaust seminar, I am new to our discussions. For some reason I have not been able to log on to CUNY, so I am very glad that Larry has created this site.
What I value most about the blogs so far is the diversity of our experiences and passions. I know I will come away from this seminar with much information for myself and my students. I am an associate professor of English at Mt. Marty College, a small Benedictine college in southeastern South Dakota, and I teach freshman composition, adolescent literature, advanced composition, and two recently-developed courses: one in literature and health care and the other an honors course on the Holocaust.
I would generally describe my teaching and research approaches as inter-disciplinary. My dissertation was on classical musical structures in Hemingway’s early fiction. One of my goals through this seminar is to develop several lessons that include “the gift of music” in pre-war and post-war Jewish culture as well as during the Holocaust. A quotation by Leonard Bernstein describes the impact of music in my life and what may have been the continued presence of music within Jewish culture: “Life without music is unthinkable, music without life is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace.” I believe that this integration of music and literature will offer an additional dimension to my adolescent literature and honors course. Another goal is to develop an interdisciplinary approach to the Holocaust that I can share with middle school and high school teachers in a teacher/consultant workshop I will develop with the DWP director, Michelle Rogge Gannon.

As I explained in my application letter, I was reticent to study the Holocaust for many years. I do know that as the mother of four young children, I avoided seeing or reading Sophie’s Choice. Even as a college English professor, I did not see Schindler’s List until long after it came out on DVD because I had been told it was so graphic, and I do not enjoy violent movies. Perhaps I also sensed my own German ancestry carried with it a feeling of guilt or my often-undisclosed Native American heritage would increase my sense of victimization. However, during the last few years, one of my primary areas of research and reading has been the Holocaust, the Jewish and German resistance, and recollections by survivors. One of my most powerful emotional experiences during the last few years was observing my son play the role of Leo Frank in the musical Parade, and watching him being lynched at the end of the show.

I am very much looking forward to learning so much more about the Holocaust, the American anti-Semitism of the early to mid-twentieth century that we often fail to acknowledge, and how these relate to other genocides. But, most of all, I am looking forward to learning from others of you who are participating in this seminar. I believe that this seminar will become a very special gift for each of us. I will see you on Monday!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

This is the first time I am going to post anything on a blog -- a major achievement for the technophobe that I am. What follows is copied from a personal statement I wrote when I applied to attend the seminar.

In Stephen Crane’s short story “The Open Boat,” one of his characters, facing death on a rough sea, recalls a poem about a dying soldier in Algiers which he had long forgotten. “Myriads of his school-fellows had informed him of the soldier's plight, but the dinning had naturally ended by making him perfectly indifferent," the narrator says. "He had never considered it his affair that a soldier of the Legion lay dying in Algiers, nor had it appeared to him as a matter for sorrow. It was less to him than breaking of a pencil's point. Now, however, it quaintly came to him as a human, living thing. It was no longer merely a picture of a few throes in the breast of a poet, meanwhile drinking tea and warming his feet at the grate; it was an actuality--stern, mournful, and fine.”

I have read “The Open Boat” many times and have taught it for many years, but it was not until after the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda that the correspondent’s remembering of the verse about a dying soldier in Algiers spoke to me in a personal way. Before the 1994 Tutsi genocide, I too had pushed into the recesses of my memory Sophie’s Choice, a heartrending movie I had watched in 1983. If anything, the movie had introduced me to Meryl Streep, one of the finest actresses whose subsequent movies I made a point to watch. I had marveled at her craft in the same way that some literary critics privilege form over content. Like Crane’s character, it did not occur to me that Sophie Zawistowski, played by Meryl Streep, was “a human, living thing . . . an actuality – stern, mournful.” If her story was not fiction, it was certainly taking place in a far-off land; it was not my reality.

Then the Tutsi genocide happened. Then, and then only, did I feel a kinship with Sophie Zawistowski. When Clementine Wamariya, a young Tutsi genocide survivor, won Oprah's essay contest with her piece entitled "Why Elie Weisel's Night Is Still Important,” it did not surprise me; she too felt a kinship with the Holocaust victims and survivors.

Indeed, the Tutsi genocide revealed to me how self-centered we humans are. It took the brutal killing of several relatives of mine and my wife's and nearly one million people with whom I share an ethnic identity for me to empathize with other victims of genocide – Jews, Armenians, and much more recently, the non-Arab inhabitants of Darfur in the Sudan.

After the Tutsi genocide, perhaps as a coping mechanism, I avoided thinking and talking about it. I became numb, so to speak. Then, around 1998, I discovered and joined an online group whose members were going through the same emotions. Slowly, I came to realize that my avoiding to think and to talk about the genocide was being appallingly selfish. Why wasn’t I in Rwanda when the genocide took place? Did we – those of us who were alive – have the responsibility to see to it that the genocide would not happen again? Not only did I have to change my demeanor, I had to be an agent of change. . . .

The Memorial Library Summer Seminar on Holocaust Education in July this year, I feel, is the next effort not only in my own education but also, eventually, in the education of my students here at Alabama A&M University. Admittedly, since the Tutsi genocide, I have read Night and have watched the movie Schindler’s List, which have shown striking similarities between the genocide of the Jews and that of the Tutsi – both of them were preceded by an ideological campaign of their dehumanization. Though I have read the book and have watched the movie, I have not had a conversation on the Holocaust with anybody, and do not feel confident and qualified to talk about it in my classes. The seminar will not only expose me to other resources on the subject, it will also give me the confidence I need to teach it and to be an agent of change.
It is very likely that most of my students have seen Hotel Rwanda, a recent movie on the Tutsi genocide. (Most of them are too young to have seen Sophie’s Choice or Schindler’s List.) Yet, not a single one has written a research paper on the subject. Could it be because they were enthralled by Don Cheadle’s craft, as I had been by Meryl Streep’s, forgetting that the movie is about real human beings? I hope the seminar will provide me with the tools to enable me to engage my students in reflecting and writing on these questions.

Quick Hello to all from Nebraska!

Hi everyone! This is going to have to be a quick post because my family and I are leaving in about an hour for Wyoming for the holiday weekend to do some mountain climbing and hiking. We plan to return on Sunday evening just in time for me to leave for NYC, so this will be my first and only blog entry before I see you at the Seminar on Monday. I have enjoyed sharing thoughts and ideas on the discussion board with all of you so far and look forward to sharing ideas and lesson plans, etc. next week. I am looking forward to getting to know all of you!

From what I have read so far, I seem to have a somewhat unique educational background from most of you. I have spent my entire career (34 years) teaching and serving as an adminsitrator in private schools (Catholic schools specifically), so I know I will bring a definite perspective to the discussions which will hopefully be helpful and insightful. At the very least, it may spark some interesting slants to the materials. I currently teach Advanced Placement US History and Contemporary History courses to Juniors and Seniors in a rather large Catholic high school (1000 students) in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I have been for 24 years. I have also been deeply involved in the Nebraska Writing Project as Principal of this same school from 1997-2006, during which time, we required all of our teachers to take an Embedded Writing Institute sponsored by the NWP. As I mentioned in my introduction on the Discussion Board, my interest in the Holocaust goes back many years to some of my personal experiences and also the fact that I have found that my students find this topic to be very fascinating. I hope to be able to make my classroom presentations on the Holocaust more meaningful and to beg, borrow and steal ideas from others!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This is me, version Thomas

That's me, last summer, giving my mom a noogy. There are very few pictures of me in recent years, mostly because I am behind the camera taking the pictures, so the only ones I have are somewhat formal. As previously mentioned, this picture was taken last year, so my hair will be shorter and my beard will be full when I get to meet you all in person.

I just finished my second year of teaching 8th grade English at a somewhat rural school in Springfield, MO (I call it rural because it is far from what I am accustomed to being a "city school," since I grew up in New Orleans). I like teaching, because of the interaction with students. I have to teach The Diary of Anne Frank, which is where my study of the Holocaust derived. I really don't like being required to do anything (hopefully this won't get me into trouble during our seminar), and was on a quest, which turned out to be a short one, to find more diverse literature which might convey broader realities of life during the Holocaust. Now, I'm using much of this new knowledge gained to try to develop a quarter long exploratory class on World War II/Holocaust studies. That's basically what I want from the seminar. I think, for me, it is most of all a psychological study, and a course development study. I'm pretty sure I can read all the books and watch all the videos and learn about the Holocaust without a summer seminar. As a new teacher, I need lots of help narrowing my focus, since I've come to the conclusion that there is a considerably greater amount of information out there than I first anticipated. I also need help identifying what is age appropriate and what is not. I also need help identifying specific learning goals, which seem hard to put in concrete, measurable terms. Maybe all of that stuff is already out there; to be honest, I think it is, since I know that across the country there are Holocaust institutes for middle and high school students. But I've found that meeting with other teachers who are also motivated to learn and grow is always the best place for me to be, even if I just want to be lazy and try to learn everything through the blinding glow of my laptop.

And that leads me to technology, which is a huge component of my class. I have an eMINTS class, which I won't take time to explain, other than the fact that technology drives everything that we do in my class. For that reason I've got a webpage that is still underconstruction that you might be interesting in checking out (if you want a better idea of what my classroom might look like): I also have a class blog, which I don't use quite the way Larry uses his - he is way better at using the blog for discussion than I am: And as I said, I'm beginning to develop a World War II/Holocaust studies class: If you've got ideas or suggestions, please pass them my way.

I'll leave you with another picture of me, my dad, and my brother. Honestly, I can't remember another time in the last 10 years that we've had this much fun together taking pictures, so I'm not only showing off my boyish good looks, but I'm also showing off a once and hopefully future emotionally strong family. Enjoy.

This is me...

Introductions...My name is Ilka. I am starting my 4 1/2th year of teaching 8th Grade English. I was a sub for most of the first half of my first year. I teach in a small town school surrounded by a growing urban population. It make for an interesting mix of attitudes on the part of my students. We have a little over 800 students in my middle school (grades 4-8). My class sizes could be smaller, my period could be longer, but there is never anything perfect in this world, right?

In my school, I am the "weird" teacher. My principal pulled me aside one day to compliment me saying every school needs one. I have come to agree with him. The beautifully odd and expressive students know they have me to look forward to, unless they join my drama club and are stuck with me for three years of plays. I love my job and everyone who knows me, knows I am a teacher 24/7/365. I am regularly whip out my journal to jot down teaching inspirations in the middle of dinner, movies, hospital visits, etc.

I am a voracious learner and love the Internet. I am also completely in love with my daughter, Gabryella. She's the most fun, though we are growing through a bit of bossiness on her part right now. Fun, fun, fun.

My interest in the Holocaust started my first year in 8th grade. I try to research the backgrounds of my stories so I can be prepared for student questions. The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the plays I teach. I realized going through the play that there is a lot of prior knowledge the students need to truly understand the subtleties of the story. Well, this started quite a journey for me. Every year World War II and the Holocaust has taken over a bit more of my school year. I am hoping that eventually, it will be the background for almost all of my teaching.

My goals at this seminar:

  • I'd like to steal as many ideas as I can from other teachers to make my lessons more valuable to my students. (Teaching is all about thievery. Think Robin Hood. Taking from the intellectually rich and giving to the academically poor.)

  • I would like more first hand knowledge of the Holocaust and it's survivors. The primary accounts will vanish from our world in my lifetime and I want to be able to carry on those stories. Our district had two Holocaust survivors come in to speak with the students this past year. What a profound experience.

  • I would like to find a way to get my students to make a connection to the world outside of their little microcosm. These kids are truly sheltered and they don't know. Entering high school, I would like them to start to care about what is happening all around them, and not just in their interpersonal relationships.

  • Finally, I hope y'all make me smarter. :)

See you soon!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This Opportunity...

In the fall I will begin my seventh year of teaching. I've been at the same district since I graduated from the University of Nebraska (go Huskers - had it get that in). Our community and school are amazing and my administrators believe in their teachers. They believe that quality educators know what's best for their students and empower each of us to challenge ourselves and our kids. The community is very supportive. Despite the recent trend of consolidation and school closings in the state, we just built a new high school building that also includes a community library. The most amazing thing about this endeavor is that it is not being paid for through tax money or a bond. The funding has come strictly from private donations and fundraising events!

I applied for this seminar because of the encouragement of our Project's director. I almost applied last year but chickened-out at the last moment. When he (the director) contacted me in late fall about applying, I began to overcome my doubt and believe that not only would I be accepted, but that I would actually travel to NYC alone! The hardest part will be leaving my three kids and husband for almost two weeks. I'm going to miss them terribly, but I trust that by the second day I'll be so immersed in the experience that it will sooth any homesickness I feel.

I am the only high school English teacher in my district and the Nebraska Writing Project has been an important outlet for me. This is one reason I applied for the seminar - to discuss meaningful teaching with others who have similar goals and objectives as I do.

I have so many goals for this seminar, but some of the major ones include the following:
  • Connect my students with others from across the nation (online discussions, podcasting, shared writing, etc.)
  • Develop a local study about persecution in comparison to the Jewish persecution in the Holocaust (For example, I grew up Mennonite which is a pacifist religion. During times of combat, pacifists traditionally register as conscientious objectors. This has been a point of contention locally and even within my own family.)
  • Humanitarian connection - appreciation for those who "give back" and work to make a difference
  • Learn more about recent genocides and how to bring these subjects to my students in a more meaningful way
  • Shop, buy souvenirs, see a show, take it all in...(I love souvenir t-shirts, it's an addiction I think)
I'm excited to meet all of you and I can't believe it's almost here!

Up and Running

Hello again.
Last time I posted, no one else had accepted an invitation. Now that a few of you are here and have posted or commented, I thought I might let you know a little about me. I just finished my second year of teaching English at a small high school in southwest Missouri. There are 300 students in grades 7 - 12. I grew up in a small town in Kansas, so I relate well with the students. For many of you who teach in a in a school this size, you are aware of the pros (small class sizes) and cons (lotsa preps.) I also think smaller class sizes provides plenty of opportunities for experimenting.

My first exposure to blogs came at my writing project site's summer institute. I hesitated to try a blog in my classroom at first because there were a myriad of problems to overcome. The hardest rule to get around was the rule banning email for students. Eventually, I just ignored it. Once my principal saw what we were doing, he just smiled and walked away. He came back 5 minutes later and told me to send him an invite. I think I now monitor 20 blogs. Some are classroom blogs, and some are student blogs where they do there journaling. I encourage you to look at the blogs listed under my profile. I think you will see some amazing things. Anyhow, I am excited to share with all of you who are interested what I have learned about blogs when we meet.

In the mean time, I thought maybe it might bew nice if we posted a little intro and share what we hope to get out of the Holocaust Education Seminar. I have read only one book that deals with the Holocaust, but have seen many of the movies listed in Jennifer's welcome letter. My students live pretty sheltered lives out here with agriculture the main source of income. I'm always on the lookout for material that will get students to see outside of their small world. Last year my senior English students studied the genocides in Darfur and Sierra Leone. Even though I have felt a connection to the Holocaust, I did not even consider the Holocaust because I felt it was ancient history. I studied it in the 60's.

After seeing the opportunity to apply for this seminar, I realized my attitude towards the Holocaust was really the problem that survivors desire to combat. I started to see the possibilities. There is such a wealth of primary and secondary source material available, my reasoning seems pretty stupid now.

What I hope to get out of the seminar are these basic things:

1. Further insights and understanding of the Holocaust

2. I would like to figure out a way to truly comprehend the enormity of the Holocaust

3. Effective teaching practices that allow my student to learn about the Holocaust

4. Develop friendships and connections with other teachers

5. Do a little sight seeing.

So, if you feel like it, post a little intro and tell us what you hope to get out of the seminar.


Thank you so much for the information about the amazing Irena Sendler and the"Life in a Jar" project. All I can say is while I learn about how horribly evil mankind can be, I am grateful to hear examples of those who are incredibly good, as well.
I look forward to blogging more.
This is my first time, so I hope I did OK!
Sue Hopkins

A Quick Hello

Larry, This is a fantastic idea. I would like to incorporate blogs into my classroom and I would love to have an example to use as a model.

I use that same map in my class when we discuss the concentration camps, though I have found a more complex one in recent weeks.

I look forward to sharing ideas with of you and meeting you all very, very soon!
~Ilka Hanselmann
Wind Gap Middle School
8th Grade English