Author: Bonnie Riggan

Observing Cultural Heritage Months: Not a Simple Decision

Observing Cultural Heritage Months: Not a Simple Decision

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Created for West Wind Education Policy by Leah Dusterhoft

As a company passionate about imagining and enacting a public school system that overcomes historic and persistent inequities, you might think that celebrating national cultural heritage months is a standard staff activity for us.  It is not.

Don’t get me wrong.  The West Wind staff agrees that these observances are important.  Our dilemma is, what is what are we recognizing? What does it mean to celebrate groups based on certain shared physical or genetic attributes? When we try to decide we find ourselves with all sorts of questions: Which cultural heritage months do we observe? Which cultural/social attributes count: Race? Ethnicity? Gender? Is it an observation or celebration and what action do we take to observe or celebrate? By making these observances are we taking part in something that separates specific groups from the whole of American history and experience? Continue reading “Observing Cultural Heritage Months: Not a Simple Decision”

High School Civil Rights Trip

High School Civil Rights Trip

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Our friends at the FasTrac program are spending their Spring Break on a trip that them from Iowa City, IA to Memphis, TN, Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, AL, and Atlanta, GA.

They started a blog so they can share their experiences as they progress through their Civil Rights Tour. It’s been great to keep up with them as they explore, learn, and no doubt have a some fun along the way.

Check out the FasTrac blog here: fastracprogram.wordpress.com/

Cheers to health & happiness in 2012

Cheers to health & happiness in 2012

Reading Time: < 1 minute

New Year’s resolutions are all about better living which is something we work to have as part of our culture here at West Wind. We strive to create a healthy and joyful workplace that promotes balance between work and life.

We recently decided to experiment with the concept of standing more during our work days for the sake of our health. We purchased some standing work stations to try out and we are finding they keep us on our feet with our muscles activated. So far, so good! Here’s an article that explains the health benefits of getting up and keeping our bodies in more full motion during long days at the office: http://tinyurl.com/42cx4eu.

Movement is great, and so is laughter. We’ve all heard laughter is the best medicine, right? Well, here’s an interesting article that explains the potential emotional and physiological benefits of laughter: http://tinyurl.com/aq2nc9.

And, to tie it all together, here’s a short clip from the t.v. show, The Office, about office-dwellers standing at work. This entertained us and might make you laugh too: http://tinyurl.com/88yrgm6.

Best wishes for good health, laughter, and happiness in the New Year!

University of Iowa to offer MFA in Spanish creative writing

University of Iowa to offer MFA in Spanish creative writing

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Beginning in Spring 2012 the University of Iowa will offer an Master of Fine Arts degree in Spanish creative writing. The new program is one of only three in the nation, with the others being the University of Texas, El Paso and New York University.

The UI program director, Ana Merino, associate professor of Spanish said, “I often speak of ‘the theory of two houses, a person with two lovely homes—one in the city, and one at the beach—wouldn’t give up either place if he didn’t have to. Likewise, if an individual identifies with two cultures, he’d prefer to retain and celebrate both. This program will help bilingual writers do just that.”

More information about the program can be found at: http://t.co/nwn0mk5n

Back to School

Back to School

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Teachers everywhere are preparing lessons to teach our children. In the minute it takes you to read this, teachers all over the world are investing their time and often investing their own money for your child’s literacy, prosperity and future. Thanks to teachers everywhere for all you do. We appreciate and respect you.

OUR BACK-TO-SCHOOL BUNCH

Bonnie: Doesn’t matter how old you are in my house, you can’t escape the First-Day-of-School photo or the mom and dad send off full of pride and hopes for the future. Pictured top left: BMac, a junior at Tate High School, Iowa City, IA.

Deanna: And they’re off…A picture of the boys on their first day of school—2nd and 5th grade already! Pictured top center.

Valerie: First there were three, now there is one. JMAN on his first solo day at elementary school since big brother is off to jr. high. and bigger brother is off to high school. Pictured top right.

Circe: My baby (ahem, son) off to high school, my daughter off to junior high, our new family member from France who was staying with us off to first day of school too! Pictured bottom left.

Mandi: My oldest off to first grade – and this year he made me stop one block from the school to kiss him good bye. Pictured bottom right.

Reform strategies give opportunities and voice to students

Reform strategies give opportunities and voice to students

Reading Time: < 1 minute

The National High School Center this summer is modeling two strategies that are central to education reform efforts: first by providing community-based education opportunities for local youth and second by giving voice to that student experience.

NHSC’s parent organization American Institutes for Research is sponsoring a student employee through Washington DC’s Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute (MYLI), a community program that provides learning and growth opportunities to DC youth. Daisha Hale, a 2011 graduate from Benjamin Banneker Academic Senior High School in Washington, DC, is working at AIR and last week published a post for the National High School Center’s High School Matters blog describing her experience with the MYLI.

West Wind is serving on the High School Matters blog editorial team and we are looking for high school students to contribute to the blog. West Wind also has been including local students and youth in our own programming, as well, such as our employment of students with disabilities through the local schools’ Transitions Service Center, serving as a mentor and Bronze Sponsor for Iowa City’s Fast Trac program, showcasing artwork by Tate High School students in our office gallery, and by inviting student contributors to our blog.

Can your organization provide community-based programs for students? Do you have structures—publications, meetings, etc.—where student voice should be present?

Africa in an Afternoon Hits Home

Africa in an Afternoon Hits Home

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I recently returned from my first trip beyond the borders of these United States. My son, who is 20, and I went to Spain with a couple of backpacks, a general idea of the cities we wanted to visit and no hotel or transportation reservations for the two weeks of our stay. During our time there knew we would visit Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada and the rest of our days were open for whatever adventures we might happen upon.

One morning we ventured south to Gibraltar, the British territory on the southern tip of Spain. Gibraltar, famed for the massive Rock of Gibraltar, which is really a small mountain in the midst of the flat waters where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet, is known as one of the Pillars of Hercules. Historically, the Pillars of Hercules mark the end of the known world and the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar. With the Rock of Gibraltar as one Pillar, the other Pillar, is a mere 7 miles across the Straits, is in Africa. The exact location of the south Pillar is often disputed as there is not a physical monolith as distinct as the Rock of the northern Pillar.

Despite the fact that there is no monolith, the short distance across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco, Africa’s northernmost country, yields an irresistible and inviting view of its northern coast. So, we decided to go there. To Africa. For the afternoon. Because we could.

We hailed a cab and within an hour we were on a ferry, passports stamped, and were crossing the Straits for a leisurely afternoon in Africa. As the ferry crossed, a large foothill dominated the view–possibly the Southern Pillar? As we approached the coast, I could see on the side of the foothill very large Arabic lettering and wondered what it meant.

When I saw that sign the reality that we had just decided to go to Africa for the afternoon started settling in. I went from feeling excited to feeling sick. The closer we got, the more sick I felt. Why did I feel like this? Was it because in our hasty departure from Spain it had not occurred to me that I do not know a single word of Arabic, the language of our destination? Or was it that I had a one-way ferry ticket, only 40 euros in my pocket, and it was just occurring to me my credit cards were only authorized for use in Spain? For a second, it might have been some of that, but I knew between my son and I we had the problem-solving abilities and moxy to get us back to Spain.

That sick feeling persisted until I finally slept sometime the next morning (we did get back to Spain that night). I spent most of that afternoon in Africa, and many hours since, knowing that sick feeling was a result of suddenly realizing how cavalier I had been about getting to go to a place from which so many have been taken against their will.

Instead of spending that afternoon strolling the city and relaxing with some mint tea, the customary drink of Morocco, I spent it struggling in my thoughts with the global and historical context of my privilege and wishing I had been more thoughtful and intentional about that brief journey.

In the weeks that have since passed, the logistical details and mishaps of that day have become an entertaining anecdote as we share our stories of our trip with friends. More importantly, that brief journey has become part of my ongoing personal journey to understand my white privilege, both at home and beyond.

This Labor Day I thank the unions for bringing me the weekend, including this long one

This Labor Day I thank the unions for bringing me the weekend, including this long one

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Labor Day has always been, for me, a symbol of one last chance to partake in summer’s delights—a barbeque with friends, a roadtrip before children’s school activities dominate the calendar, one last dip at the city park pool before it’s too cold to enjoy, a small town parade.

It’s easy for me to answer the questions of where to plunk my lawn chair along the parade route and whether or not to toss in a sweater for the weekend roadtrip; it is not so easy to answer another question that crossed my mind today: “Why do we celebrate Labor Day?”

Most of the accounts I found that answer the question, “Why do we celebrate Labor Day?” talk about the first Labor Day (September 5, 1882) and argue over who founded Labor Day (Peter J. McGuire or Matthew Maguire) and the reason the first Monday of September was chosen as the permanent date for the holiday rather than the alternative choice of May 1 (Haymarket Affair).

Those accounts don’t talk about labor unions or the benefits that have resulted from the collective action of unions. Since their inception in the1800s, labor unions exercised the tenets of democracy to leverage rights for workers such as the 8 hour work day, child labor laws, equality in pay, and protection for worker safety and health.

Many workers in this country, including myself, have never been and may never be union members but it’s important for me to know and appreciate how I benefit from the toils both of my fellow workers, past and present, and the labor unions that represent them.

So, this weekend, as I barbeque, head out on a roadtrip, swim, and clap along to the beat of the bass drum as the band marches by during the parade, I will know I have got the labor unions to thank, not only for my long holiday weekend but also for so many rights and protections I take for granted every day.

Welcome!

Welcome!

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Welcome to West Wind Education Policy’s blog on Systemic Equity Leadership. We’ve set this space up primarily as a place to share links and thoughts with anyone we come into contact with through the work. We also will be posting links to handouts and readings we’ve shared here on the Resources page. Please feel free to poke around as you like!

Theme: Overlay by Kaira