I hold an adamant belief that travel can be an invaluable, life-altering experience. Families that have the means to travel often see it as a luxury, and take for granted the incredible learning that they and their children gain. I work in an alternative high school – most of my students are from families that do not have anywhere near those kinds of means. Their experiences have been, in large part, a struggle and the larger world is mostly an abstraction – including the potential wonder and hope that it can hold. Monteverde, Costa Rica epitomizes that kind of wonder and hope – blending the culture of indigenous inhabitants with that of the American Quaker settlers that arrived in the 1950’s, and balancing a model of conservation with becoming an international eco-tourism destination. The book, Walking With Wolf, tells this story in a remarkable way.
We are now in the midst of a year-long interdisciplinary class that will include Walking With Wolf, student blogs (which I hope you'll check out on the right), individual research projects, and a 10-day trip to Monteverde this Spring. The students are working hard and must fundraise their entire way there - they need your help. If you are willing to support their efforts,
checks can be made out to “Lister Academy – Costa Rica Class”, and mailed to: Robert J. Lister Academy, Attn: Bryan Mascio, 35 Sherburne Road, Portsmouth, NH 03801.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chapter 2

Having already read the book once, it is hard for me to remember what information was delivered in a single chapter and what was an accumulation over the course of the entire book. This difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that I read the book in only three days last February (an unusually fast reading for an otherwise slow reader). The reason that I mention this is because I was particularly struck by the incredible amount of information that Kay Chornook packs into very few pages - and she does it in a way that I find engaging rather than overwhelming.

In chapter 2, we get a great overview of what it is to be Quaker - including a brief historical context, an overview of their beliefs and practices, and a glimpse at the pedagogy of Quaker schools. When I returned home from Monteverde last February, I told my brother a bit about this book and was surprised to hear of his familiarity with Quakers. Corey has spent much of the last decade working as an activist for a variety of causes, and cited the Quakers as a major supporter of peace rallies. That conversation helped me understand that the impression I was getting of Quakers in the past, is not just in the past.

The other area of information that struck me was all of the historical references. This may be overwhelming for the students - in large part because of how much of it will be unfamiliar. I believe that it was while first reading this chapter that I became confident that the book could be used as the basis of an interdisciplinary course. So often, people see history as theoretical and distant, but this shows how it is alive and relevant. The world events that Wolf and his friends were following in their early adulthood changed the way that they saw the world, which then influenced the decisions that they made. They went off and helped settle Monteverde (which the book hasn't quite gotten to yet), which has become a major ecotourism destination. When we go there, we should appreciate the fact that it didn't happen randomly or spontaneously - it was a result of ethical and courageous people in the past taking control of their lives and destinies, and thus altering the present world for all of us. Any one of these historical events would make a great research topic.

Speaking of taking control, there were several other passages that relate directly to locus of control. This is an area of particular interest to me, and I consider it to be the centerpiece of the work I do at the Lister Academy and at Great Bay Community College. Locus of Control is whether you see life as in your control or or not. It's whether you see yourself as a victim or creator, whether you are a leaf in the wind or a bird flying in the air. I believe that taking control and having an internal locus of control is the central most important factor in becoming successful. On page 22, Wolf's Aunt Mary takes control of segregation in her home. Too often, people excuse historical wrong-doing because of what the societal norms were of the time - but not Aunt Mary. Her solution to a house guest that "...wouldn't feel comfortable sitting at the table with Negroes.", was to "...fix him a place at a table in the utility room." This is a woman that was a creator of her destiny - and so is Wolf.

Wolf showed tremendous locus of control through the telling of all his hardships - he grew up with a mentally ill mother, was jailed for following his religious beliefs and resisting the draft, and then lost his father and needed to take over the family farm. Despite all of this, his voice is never that of a victim. He identifies that it was difficult, but never blames others for the difficulty. These events and others certainly have an influence on his life, but he is clearly always taking ownership for the course that he steers. I am constantly teaching about locus of control - perhaps Wolf's story will serve as a powerful guest speaker in these lessons.

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